The Limits of Power: Questions for Alito
In Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court rejected the President's claim that he has the unchecked authority to lock up anyone he deems an "enemy combatant." Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote that the Administration's position "cannot be mandated by any reasonable view of the separation of powers, as this approach only serves to condense power into a single branch of government. We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens." At the same time, the Administration held José Padilla, another US citizen declared an enemy combatant, without charges or a hearing for more than three years.
Judge Alito, what do you believe are the limits on the President's power to interfere with the rights of the nation's citizens in wartime? Are there executive powers that should remain unchecked by the courts?
In Rasul v. Bush, the Supreme Court rejected the President's assertion that US courts lack the jurisdiction to hear the claims of Guantánamo prisoners that they are being held illegally. These claims are brought by means of a writ of habeas corpus--a legal procedure that has limited the powers of kings and Presidents alike for hundreds of years and was the first act passed by the first US Congress in 1789. The Supreme Court has described the writ as "the fundamental instrument for safeguarding individual freedom against arbitrary and lawless state action."
Judge Alito, does the executive have the power to annul habeas corpus? Does the President have the right to lock people up without having to defend the action before a court of law?