Reaction To Attorney General Mukasey’s Call For Congressional Action On Rules For Detainee Hearings

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Boumediene v. Bush last month reaffirmed our core American values by concluding that detainees at Guantanamo have the right to bring habeas corpus claims in federal court.  I applauded that decision because I have maintained from the beginning that the provisions of the Military Commission Act that purported to strip away those rights were unconstitutional and un-American. 

 The Judiciary Committee has held a wide range of hearings on issues of detainee rights and procedures.  Attorney General Mukasey’s call today for Congress to create new rules for these habeas proceedings is the first I have heard from the Administration on this issue.  Given the Judiciary Committee’s long interest in this subject, it is regrettable that the Attorney General neither consulted with nor informed the Committee about this request before his speech. 

 The Courts have a long history of considering habeas petitions and of handling national security matters, including classified information.  I have great confidence in our system of justice and its ability to handle these issues.  The Administration made this mess by seeking to avoid judicial review at all costs, causing years of delay and profound uncertainty.  It has been rebuked four times by the Supreme Court.  Habeas Corpus is the ultimate guarantee of fairness and a check on executive excess.  The Congress must not rush to pass yet another piece of ill conceived legislation.  The Judiciary Committee will continue to address issues related to detainees and will review and consider any proposal from the Administration on these matters.  With so little time left in this legislative session and the complexity of these issues, it may be an issue more responsibly addressed in the next Congress with a new President.

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