The Supreme Court today ruled that Guantanamo Bay detainees in the War on Terror can bring habeas petitions to challenge their confinement. But as Chief Justice Roberts notes in dissent (in remarks highlighted by Michelle Malkin at the bottom of her post), the Court is hopelessly vague about what the courts are supposed to do in response to those petitions, or what substantive standards will apply in ruling on them, refusing to provide any such standards.
The net result of the court’s ruling will likely be tons of future litigation, at the cost of millions of dollars to the taxpayers, as large, well-funded liberal Manhattan law firms like Shearman & Sterling take on the government in court. Taxpayers will suffer, and so, probably, will national security, but it’s not clear if any of the supposedly innocent detainees will benefit at the end of the day, or get released as a result of all this litigation even if they are in fact innocent of being terrorists or combatants. Indeed, the decision creates perverse incentives for detainees and the government. Lawyers as a class are the only clear winners. (In past wars, the government has sometimes simply ignored court rulings on habeas petitions. For example, during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln ignored Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney’s ruling against him in Ex Parte Merryman, a case involving a rebel sympathizer)