Rights of Combatants: How the Guantanamo Bay Cases May Apply to Other Issues in the War on Terrorism
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Located on the island of Cuba, the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base has become home to hundreds of detainees who are suspected of belonging to or aiding terrorist organizations throughout the war on terror. Almost immediately after the base started being used as a detention center for the enemy combatants, legal issues began to arise over what constitutional provisions would be afforded to detainees and the applicability of United States laws in such cases. The Supreme Court assumed the role of deciding these various matters, the heart of which was determined in four key cases: Rasul v. Bush (2004), Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004), Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006), and Boumediene v. Bush (2008). The unique nature of detaining combatants at Guantanamo Bay, including the location of the base on foreign soil and the sensitive national security matters involved, makes this situation unlike any other before in history. Since the conclusion of these cases, further legal questions regarding the War on Terror have arisen. Is the President authorized to order the killing of a United States citizen abroad? Can Congress legislatively authorize the indefinite detention of captured combatants? This paper will analyze the legal reasoning, as expressed in the majority opinion of the Court, in each of the Guantanamo cases in order to answer these and other questions. The analysis of the cases regarding detention at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base provide important insight into the legality of other issues in the War on Terrorism, and the legal reasoning can be used to predict the outcome of pending and future cases likely to be heard by the Supreme Court.