Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Hicks conviction could be quashed under US co -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

ASHLEY HALL: In its waning months, the Bush administration has been handed a legal and political
mess involving its detention of terrorism suspects at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

The US Supreme Court has today given suspected al-Qaeda members the right to use civilian courts to
challenge their captivity.

It means some of the detainees could ask to be set free.

Critics of the court ruling have denounced it as a threat to national security.

The lawyer for the former Australian detainee David Hicks says it could mean his client's
conviction could be quashed, if the military commissions are ruled to be invalid.

Washington correspondent Kim Landers reports.

KIM LANDERS: These terrorist suspects are held on foreign soil, and they're not US citizens, but
now America's highest court has ruled they do have rights under the Constitution because they're in
US custody.

For years, the Bush administration has been hoping that keeping the alleged al-Qaeda members at the
US naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba would keep them out of the US legal system.

But today, for the first time, the US Supreme Court has ruled these men can challenge their
indefinite captivity by taking their case to civilian courts.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is outraged.

LINDSEY GRAHAM: Al-Qaeda will be given the same rights as an American citizen, something we didn't
do for the Nazis.

KIM LANDERS: In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court not only said that the detainees have rights under
the Constitution but that the Bush administration's system for classifying them as enemy combatants
is inadequate.

Commander Suzanne Lachelier represents Ramzibin al-Shibh one of the alleged September the 11th
co-conspirators, who appeared in court for the first time last week.

SUZANNE LACHELIER: I felt like I have...some of my hope is restored, and that maybe tripartite
democracy actually works. I was just elated. I really was. I had to take ten minutes out just to go
around the office and celebrate. This is one of those decisions that's going to be read by law
students for years to come.

KIM LANDERS: Do you think there are grounds for releasing your client?

SUZANNE LACHELIER: That is hard for me to say not having looked at any of the evidence at this
point. I don't even have, all I have is the results of his combative status review tribunal. I
don't have the actual evidence that they looked at in making a determination, much less the
classified evidence which is probably, would take even longer to get so I can't say one way or the
other, honestly.

KIM LANDERS: Enormous practical questions remain, like whether terrorism suspects challenging their
detention would get to see classified evidence against them or whether they could call witnesses,
including members of the US military.

There's also confusion over whether this ruling applies to those detainees like alleged September
the 11th mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who are facing trial or just to the men who've never
been charged, but remain behind bars.

Pardiss Kebriaei is a lawyer with the Centre for Constitutional Rights.

She helps represent six of the Guantanamo detainees.

She says the government may be reluctant to defend some of the challenges to the detainees'
detention because the evidence they'll need to rely on has been tainted.

PARDISS KEBRIAEI: Much of the intelligence that the government has has probably been tainted in
some way or another by cohesion and torture, so I think that whatever statements or information
they have includes that kind of odd, corrupted evidence, and that the government is not going to
want to try to go, stand before a judge and actually present as a basis, a legitimate basis for
detaining people.

So I think this decision will probably result in the release, hopefully soon of a lot of the men
who the government never had any intention of charging.

KIM LANDERS: President George W Bush says he'll abide by the Supreme Court ruling, but he's also
suggesting new legislation might be needed so he can assure the American people he's doing
everything he can to protect them.

Eugene Fidell is the President of the National Institute of Military Justice.

He says there are so many complicating factors which will influence what the Bush administration
does next.

EUGENE FIDELL: This administration has shown itself to have a complete tin ear on these issues. It
is now dealing with an increasingly hostile and restive Congress. There is a presidential election
coming up. Other than that, it has a clear path.

KIM LANDERS: So in other words, this legal mess, if you like, could just end up squarely in the lap
of the next President to deal with?

EUGENE FIDELL: That is correct, and that is probably the best thing that could happen so that a new
team can take a fresh look at it and decide what the meaning of life is here.

KIM LANDERS: The military commission system has only produced one conviction -Australian David
Hicks, who took a plea deal.

The ramifications of this ruling will undoubtedly land on the desk of the next President.

Republican nominee John McCain is clearly worried:

JOHN MCCAIN: It obviously concerns me. These are unlawful combatants. They are not American
citizens, but it a decision the Supreme Court has made and now we need to move forward.

As you know, I always favoured closing of Guantanamo Bay and I still think that we ought to do
that.

KIM LANDERS: President George W. Bush and Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama also say
they support shutting down Guantanamo, but there's no clear consensus on where the detainees should
go.

This is Kim Landers in Washington for The World Today.