BOUMEDIENE v. BUSH

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
Petitioner 
Lakhdar Boumediene, et al.
Respondent 
George W. Bush, President of the United States, et al.
Consolidation 
Khaled A. F. Al Odah, Next Friend of Fawzi Khalid Abdullah Fahad Al Odah, et al. v. United States, et al., No. 06-1196
Advocates
(on behalf of the Respondents)
(on behalf of the Petitioners)
Term:
Facts of the Case 

In 2002 Lakhdar Boumediene and five other Algerian natives were seized by Bosnian police when U.S. intelligence officers suspected their involvement in a plot to attack the U.S. embassy there. The U.S. government classified the men as enemy combatants in the war on terror and detained them at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, which is located on land that the U.S. leases from Cuba. Boumediene filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging violations of the Constitution's Due Process Clause, various statutes and treaties, the common law, and international law. The District Court judge granted the government's motion to have all of the claims dismissed on the ground that Boumediene, as an alien detained at an overseas military base, had no right to a habeas petition. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal but the Supreme Court reversed in Rasul v. Bush, which held that the habeas statute extends to non-citizen detainees at Guantanamo.

In 2006, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA). The Act eliminates federal courts' jurisdiction to hear habeas applications from detainees who have been designated (according to procedures established in the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005) as enemy combatants. When the case was appealed to the D.C. Circuit for the second time, the detainees argued that the MCA did not apply to their petitions, and that if it did, it was unconstitutional under the Suspension Clause. The Suspension Clause reads: "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it."

The D.C. Circuit ruled in favor of the government on both points. It cited language in the MCA applying the law to "all cases, without exception" that pertain to aspects of detention. One of the purposes of the MCA, according to the Circuit Court, was to overrule the Supreme Court's opinion in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which had allowed petitions like Boumediene's to go forward. The D.C. Circuit held that the Suspension Clause only protects the writ of habeas corpus as it existed in 1789, and that the writ would not have been understood in 1789 to apply to an overseas military base leased from a foreign government. Constitutional rights do not apply to aliens outside of the United States, the court held, and the leased military base in Cuba does not qualify as inside the geographic borders of the U.S. In a rare reversal, the Supreme Court granted certiorari after initially denying review three months earlier.

Question 
  1. Should the Military Commissions Act of 2006 be interpreted to strip federal courts of jurisdiction over habeas petitions filed by foreign citizens detained at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba?

  2. If so, is the Military Commissions Act of 2006 a violation of the Suspension Clause of the Constitution?

  3. Are the detainees at Guantanamo Bay entitled to the protection of the Fifth Amendment right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law and of the Geneva Conventions?

  4. Can the detainees challenge the adequacy of judicial review provisions of the MCA before they have sought to invoke that review?

Conclusion 
Decision: 5 votes for Boumediene, 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Article 1, Section 9, Paragraph 2: Suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus

A five-justice majority answered yes to each of these questions. The opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, stated that if the MCA is considered valid its legislative history requires that the detainees' cases be dismissed. However, the Court went on to state that because the procedures laid out in the Detainee Treatment Act are not adequate substitutes for the habeas writ, the MCA operates as an unconstitutional suspension of that writ. The detainees were not barred from seeking habeas or invoking the Suspension Clause merely because they had been designated as enemy combatants or held at Guantanamo Bay. The Court reversed the D.C. Circuit's ruling and found in favor of the detainees. Justice David H. Souter concurred in the judgment. Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia filed separate dissenting opinions.

Cite this Page
BOUMEDIENE v. BUSH. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 30 July 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2007/2007_06_1195>.
BOUMEDIENE v. BUSH, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2007/2007_06_1195 (last visited July 30, 2014).
"BOUMEDIENE v. BUSH," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed July 30, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2007/2007_06_1195.