Court sides with WH on Bagram detainees, temporarily

The Obama administration won a stay from the judge who ordered the Department of Justice to grant habeas corpus to suspected terrorists held at Bagram in Afghanistan.  Acknowledging that “extraordinary circumstances” exist, Judge John Bates agreed to put aside his ruling while AG Eric Holder appeals it:

President Barack Obama has won more breathing room to revamp detainee policies after a federal judge agreed Monday to put on hold a ruling permitting legal challenges by some prisoners in U.S. custody at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

To the chagrin of many on the left, Obama had essentially adopted the Bush administration’s position that prisoners at Bagram could not bring challenges in U.S. courts. On April 2, Judge John Bates, a Bush appointee, rejected the Bush-Obama stance, ruling that three prisoners flown into Bagram from other countries could pursue so-called habeas corpus cases seeking release.

However, Bates agreed Monday to allow the government to appeal his ruling immediately and to put the original ruling on hold while the appeal proceeds.

“These cases present extraordinary circumstances,” Bates wrote. “Although this Court believes that its conclusions are correct, given the novelty of the issues courts could reasonably differ.”

The novelty over the last few years has come from the federal judiciary.  The Constitution gives them no role in waging war, especially abroad; it leaves the declaration of war to Congress and the management of it to the executive branch.  Asserting a role in the explicitly military role of assessing prisoners captured on a battlefield or in intelligence operations not only creates an untenable tension between military/intelligence procedures, it also arrogantly declares a jurisdiction outside of the boundaries of the US.

Kudos to the Obama administration for sticking to the right position on this issue, but it would be nice if they acknowledged that they had it wrong during the campaign.  Hopefully, the appellate court will reach the rational, historical, and Constitutional position.