Hamdan Summary -- And HUGE News
Posted by Marty Lederman at 10:37 AM
As I predicted below, the Court held that Congress had, by statute, required that the commissions comply with the laws of war -- and held further that these commissions do not (for various reasons). I have not yet read the complete opinions, but from what I've seen of not only the Stevens majority, but also the Kennedy and Breyer concurrences (see Orin Kerr with the relevant AMK and SGB excerpts here), it is hard to overstate the principal, powerfully stated themes emanating from the Court, which are (i) that the President's conduct is subject to the limitations of statute and treaty; and (ii) that Congress's enactments are best construed to require compliance with the international laws of armed conflict.
Even more importantly for present purposes, the Court held that Common Article 3 of Geneva aplies as a matter of treaty obligation to the conflict against Al Qaeda. That is the HUGE part of today's ruling. The commissions are the least of it. This basically resolves the debate about interrogation techniques, because Common Article 3 provides that detained persons "shall in all circumstances be treated humanely," and that "[t]o this end," certain specified acts "are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever"—including "cruel treatment and torture," and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." This standard, not limited to the restrictions of the due process clause, is much more restrictive than even the McCain Amendment. See my further discussion here.
This almost certainly means that the CIA's interrogation regime is unlawful, and indeed, that many techniques the Administation has been using, such as waterboarding and hypothermia (and others) violate the War Crimes Act (because violations of Common Article 3 are deemed war crimes).If I'm right about this, it's enormously significant.
wowsers. scotus even used the word 'torture' - frank luntz will be quaking in his boots.