Rulings On Detainees A Mixed Bag For Bush

June 29, 2004
Hartford Courant, June 29, 2004. By John A. MacDonald, Staff Writer
June 29 2004

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court handed the Bush administration a split decision on key aspects of the war on terrorism Monday, ruling it may hold suspected terrorists without trials or charges, but insisting that detainees be able to challenge their status in U.S. courts.

The delicately balanced rulings in two separate cases were far less than the free hand the administration had sought. But no one now in custody, whether they are American citizens or foreign nationals, will immediately go free. Suspected terrorists still have to persuade the courts that the government has no reason to hold them.

The high court sidestepped a ruling in a third case.

Experts disagreed about the significance of the rulings.

"Overall, it's liberty two, administration zero and one tie," said Jonathan M. Freiman, a New Haven lawyer who opposed the administration's position in one of the cases. Timothy Lynch, director of the criminal justice project at the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank, said the administration had failed to win two of its objectives: keep suspected terrorists out of court and away from lawyers. "It's a big setback," he said.