[JURIST] A federal appeals court heard oral arguments Wednesday in a case that will determine the constitutional scope of the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA) [text] as it applies to over 300 Guantanamo Bay [JURIST report] detainees who have sought habeas corpus review to challenge their detentions. The DTA, signed by President Bush at the end of December, includes terms based on an amendment [JURIST report] introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) barring detainees from filing habeas petitions to challenge the legality of their detention but does allow them to appeal the rulings of military tribunals.
Lawyers for the Bush administration argued to a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official homepage] that the DTA specifically "eliminates all sources of jurisdiction, including habeas corpus, by which the detainees might challenge any aspect of their detention." At the hearing, Judge David B. Sentelle seem skeptical of the argument, pointing out the Supreme Court ruled in Rasul v. Bush [text] that under the US constitution district courts have jurisdiction to consider challenges from Guantanamo detainees. In response, government lawyer Gregory G. Katsas asserted that the Rasul holding is now limited by the DTA in that detainees are allowed to file court challenges but the courts – under the DTA – are prevented from ruling on those motions. But Sentelle was dismissive and asked Katsas if he was seriously suggesting that "all the Supreme Court did in Rasul was give (detainees) a right to file a piece of paper that cannot possibly grant release." Attorneys for the detainees argued that the DTA was unconstitutional on its face and alternatively, that it does not automatically require dismissal of standing detainee challenges. Read the Bush Administration's court brief. AP has more.