In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court has determined that detainees at Guantanamo Bay have the right to seek relief for their detention in civilian courts. What this means in real terms for those being detained is still not clear. Also unstated is whether or not those being held on so-called floating prisons will be afforded the same rights as those at Guantanamo.
UPDATE: Justice Anthony Kennedy noted in the ruling that “The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.” Joining Kennedy in the 5-4 decision were Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens.
In his letter of dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts essentially said the detainees, some of whom have been in Guantanamo for six years, have had “the most generous set of procedural protections ever afforded aliens detained by this country as enemy combatants.” Justice Antonin Scalia adopted a more Cheney-ish approach, noting that this decision “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.”
This is not the first time that detainees have been given the right of Habeas Corpus. Twice before, the courts have ruled in their favor. In each previous case, however, a Republican Congress (along with the Bush Administration) quickly changed the law following the rulings, necessitating another round of Constitutional challenges before the detainees could have their case heard in the civilian courts.