Judges put brake on Bush juggernaut

Facts revealed about little publicised cases show that at least the American courts have been standing up to President George Bush and his draconian  'war against terror'.

The eight cases documented below should act as a boost to human rights campaigners in Britain who face a government that is determined to take a leaf out of Bush's anti-libertarian book.

June 2007, Al-Marri v. Wright

A panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, ruled two to one that the administration cannot use new anti-terrorism laws to keep U.S. residents locked up indefinitely without charges. It found that the federal Military Commissions Act didn't strip Ali al-Marri, a Qatar native living legally in Peoria, Illinois, on a student visa, of his constitutional rights to challenge his accusers in court. It ruled the government must allow al-Marri to be released from military detention. The administration is appealing to the full 4th Circuit Court.

June 2007, U.S. v. Hamdan and U.S. v. Kadr

Military judges dismissed charges against a Guantanamo detainee accused of chauffeuring Osama bin Laden and another accused of killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan. In back-to-back arraignments for Salim Ahmed Hamdan of Yemen and Omar Khadr of Canada, the U.S. military's cases against the alleged al-Qaeda figures dissolved because, the two judges said, the government had failed to establish jurisdiction. The could complicate efforts by the United States to try other suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban figures in military courts.

April 2007. Al Odah v. USA and Boumediene v. Bush

The Supreme Court declined to review whether Guantanamo Bay detainees, some held for more than five years, may go to federal court to challenge their indefinite confinement. However, several justices made clear they would be sympathetic to further requests from the detainees.

August 2006. ACLU v. National Security Agency

A federal judge in Detroit struck down President Bush's warrantless surveillance program, saying it violated the rights to free speech and privacy, as well as the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution. Five months later, as an appeals court considered the case, the administration announced it would allow judicial review of the spying program run by the National Security Agency.

June 2006, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld

The Supreme Court threw out Bush's system of military trials for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, saying he had exceeded his authority and was in violation of international treaties. The detainee in the case was Hamdan, the alleged driver for bin Laden in Afghanistan. Congress, then led by Republicans, pushed through legislation authorising war-crime trials for the detainees and denying them access to civilian courts. That law is currently being challenged.

November 2005. Padilla v. Hanft

The Bush administration held Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, as an enemy combatant in a Navy brig for 3 ½ years before hastily adding him to an existing civilian court case in Miami in November 2005. The move came a few days before a U.S. Supreme Court deadline for Bush administration briefs on the question of the president's powers to continue holding him in military prison without charges. Padilla and two other men are now on trial in Miami for what prosecutors say was a conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim people overseas and to support Islamic extremists. All three have pleaded not guilty.

June 2004. Hamdi v. Rumsfeld

The Supreme Court ruled Yaser Esam Hamdi, a U.S. citizen seized on the Afghanistan battlefield in 2001, has the right to use U.S. courts to challenge his detention and status as an enemy combatant. The decision overturned a lower court's ruling that the federal government had wide latitude to hold Hamdi and deny him access to courts because he was caught fighting against the United States on foreign soil during wartime. Eight justices rejected the Bush administration's claim that Hamdi could be held indefinitely without charges or means to protest his captivity.

June 2004. Rasul v. Bush

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that 600 foreign-born terror suspects captured abroad and held at the US navy-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba, had a right to challenge their detention.