The ACLU and Human Rights First are suing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, seeking “a court order declaring that Secretary Rumsfeld’s actions violated the U.S. Constitution, federal statutes and international law.”
“We believed the United States could correct its policy without resort to the courts. In bringing this action today, we reluctantly conclude that we were wrong.”
A few months ago I attended a panel discussion about the rule of law in light of recent prisoner abuses a few months ago, sponsored by the Stanford Law School and the International Red Cross, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. After the legal experts detailed abuse after abuse things looked pretty bleak, so I asked the obvious question: With all the egregious abuses you’ve listed, is the rule of law dead? I was surprised to hear the three panelists (law professors from the U.S. Naval War College, Santa Clara University and Stanford) all agree the answer was “no.” Their assessment was that the President and his administration was clearly abusing the law and Congress had rolled over and played dead, but the Judicial Branch was still doing its job to interpret the law. It’s just that the judicial branch is slow, they explained, and so when the other branches abuse their power it takes a while to rectify.
It looks like this, plus the ruling that the government must either charge or release Jose Padilla, are both small steps showing that slow progress at work.