A reminder of limits of executive power

A reminder of limits of executive power
The June 29 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court limits the power of the Bush administration to conduct military tribunals for suspected terrorists imprisoned at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

This is seen as a test of President Bush's authority as commander in chief during war. The Bush administration has aggressively asserted its power to capture, detain and prosecute suspected terrorists.

While the ruling does not address the government's right to detain suspects, it means the United States will have to come up with a new policy to prosecute the so-called "enemy combatants" awaiting trial.


At the center of this dispute was Salim Ahmed Hamdan, captured in Afghanistan in 2001 shortly after the 9/11 attacks on the United States. Officials said he has admitted being a personal assistant, bodyguard and driver to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

But Justice John Paul Stevens noted the tribunal was not authorized by Congress. The tribunals, he said, "must be understood to incorporate at least the barest of those trial protections that have been recognized by customary international law."

"In undertaking to try Hamdan and subject him to criminal punishment, the executive [Bush] is bound to comply with the rule of law that prevails in this jurisdiction," Stevens wrote.

"Congress has not issued the executive a ?blank check'," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote. "Indeed, Congress has denied the president the legislative authority to create military commissions of the kind at issue here."

The court's ruling is a refreshing reminder of a core principal of our government – a balance of power between the executive, legislation and judicial branches.

The Supreme Court case was about power and it ruled the Bush administration had taken too much.

The military tribunals addressed by the court last week are just one example of the unprecedented steps being taken by the Bush administration to extend its power.

Last week's ruling by the Supreme Court reminds the Bush administration � and the citizens � that no president is above the law. Even members of the president's own party acknowledged the abuse of power.

"The problem ? is that they dealt Congress out early on," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, in response to the court's ruling.

The Bush administration has moved aggressively to strengthen presidential power from the onset. And given with most of this president's time in office against the backdrop of 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the power grab has gone largely unchallenged.

The ruling by the Supreme Court provides hope for a more balanced approach to governance. It is a powerful affirmation of what the founders had in mind when they handed down their landmark document in Philadelphia July 4, 1776.

The Freeman Courier editorials reflect the opinion of Courier news.

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