Courts Tell Prez: You're Not Above the Constitution

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President George W. Bush's broad assertions of power in his war on terrorism are under assault by U.S. judges who have rejected his indefinite imprisonment of enemy combatants and the domestic spying program.

A pair of recent rulings, one from military judges and the other from a U.S. appeals court, delivered new legal setbacks for Bush's tactics in dealing with terrorism suspects held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or in the United States.

"In case after case, this nation's judicial branch has told the administration that it may not trample on fundamental rights in the name of national security," said Hina Shamsi of the New York-based group Human Rights First.

A federal appeals court panel in Virginia ruled 2-1 on Monday that Bush could not declare civilians in this country to be enemy combatants and have the military hold them indefinitely.

The ruling said Bush overstepped his authority in the case of a Qatari national and suspected al-Qaeda operative, Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, who has been held in military custody for four years without any charges.

Human rights and civil liberties groups said the decision underscored the importance of judicial review as a check on Bush's executive power.

"Once again, the courts have stepped in to rein in the executive and restore the rule of law," said Jennifer Daskal, U.S. advocacy director of Human Rights Watch.

The ruling came a week after military judges dismissed all charges against the only two Guantanamo prisoners facing trial, saying they had been designated only as "enemy combatants," and not "unlawful enemy combatants" as required by a 2006 law.

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