The Detainee Treatment Act, § 1005(e), 109 Pub. L. No. 148, 119 Stat. 2680, 2742, amended 28 U.S.C.S. § 2241 to provide that no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Section 1005 further provides that the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit shall have exclusive jurisdiction to review decisions of the Combatant Status Review Tribunals.
Petitioners are aliens detained at Guantanamo after being captured in Afghanistan or elsewhere abroad and designated enemy combatants by the Combatant Status Review Tribunal. Denying membership in the al Qaeda terrorist network that carried out the September 11 attacks and the Taliban regime that supported al Qaeda, each petitioner sought a writ of habeas corpus in the District Court, which ordered the cases dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because Guantanamo is outside sovereign U. S. territory. Certiorari was granted and the judgment was reversed.
Did petitioner Guantanamo detainees have the constitutional privilege of habeas corpus?
Under the Suspension Clause, the writ of habeas corpus may be suspended only in cases of rebellion or invasion when public safety requires it. The Suspension Clause, U.S. Const. art. I, § 9, cl. 2, had full effect at Guantanamo Bay. In order to deny habeas corpus, therefore, Congress had to act in conformance with the Suspension Clause. The procedures set forth in the Detainee Treatment Act, 109 Pub. L. No. 148, 119 Stat. 2680, were not an adequate and effective substitute for habeas corpus as detainees were not allowed to present exculpatory evidence that was not part of the record in the Combatant Status Review Tribunal proceedings. Thus, 28 U.S.C.S. § 2241(e) effected an unconstitutional suspension of the writ of habeas corpus. The detainees were not required to exhaust the review procedures in the appellate court before proceeding with their habeas actions given the already lengthy delay.