WASHINGTON - April 23 - The coming week will showcase a critical test of the Constitutional rights of individual citizens against the powers of the President and the executive branch, as the U.S. Supreme Court hears the cases of two American citizens held for months on suspicion of terrorism without access to legal advice or due process. The draconian detention policy is drawing heavy fire from groups on all sides of the political spectrum, from left to right.
The Court this week heard arguments concerning the long-term detention of foreign prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Next week, the Court will hear the cases of two American citizens: Yasir Esam Hamdi, held for two years, and Jose Padilla, held for 22 months. Both were only recently given brief access to legal counsel, although the Administration continues to argue they have no right to a lawyer. In the Hamdi, Padilla and Guantanamo, cases the Bush Administration continues to maintain that it has the right to indefinitely detain suspects without judicial oversight.
Not since the internment of Japanese American citizens during World War II have we seen such a far-reaching assertion of Presidential power. It chills me to the bone that any American citizen, regardless of guilt or innocence, can be held for so long with no access to justice, said Ralph G. Neas, President of People For the American Way Foundation. As the war in Iraq and terrorist threats to the United States continue, the Court must assert its vital role as the guardian of our most basic freedoms, and a check on untrammeled power.
People For the American Way Foundation has filed a brief in the Padilla case, joined by the right-wing Rutherford Foundation. Groups across the ideological spectrum have joined in condemning the detention policies.
Additionally, People For the American Way Foundation has issued a new report: Undermining the Constitution: The Bush Administration Detention Policy, which can be found at http://www.pfaw.org/pfaw/general/default.aspx?oid=15110.
President Ralph G. Neas and Elliot Mincberg, Vice President and General Counsel For People For the American Way Foundation, are available to discuss the detention policy, the wider implications of this breathtaking assertion of power over Constitutional rights, and the role of the Supreme Court in maintaining a check on executive branch power. Mincberg will attend the oral arguments in both the Padilla and Hamdi cases on Wednesday, and will be available for comment thereafter.
For more information, or to schedule an interview, contact Laurie Boeder or Priscilla Ring at 202.467.4999.