Prisoners at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay filed a writ of habeas corpus seeking a hearing before a neutral tribunal to determine whether there is a reasonable basis in law and fact for detaining them. After an initial trip through the courts, the Supreme Court ruled in Rasul v. Bush that the writ of habeas corpus extended to Guantanamo and that the prisoners were entitled to a hearing. The case was remanded to the district court. Since then, Congress passed the Detainee Treatment Act of 2007 and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA), which strip the federal courts of jurisdiction over all legal actions filed by Guantanamo detainees.
The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the MCA applied to the prisoners' petitions for writs of habeas corpus and further that the MCA did not violate the Suspension Clause of the United States Constitution. The Suspension Clause provides that “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” The Supreme Court has previously stated that the Suspension Clause
protects the writ “as it existed in 1789,” when the first Judiciary Act created the federal courts and granted jurisdiction to issue
writs of habeas corpus. The Court of Appeals concluded that the writ in 1789 would not have been available to aliens held at an overseas military base leased from a foreign government, and therefore held that Congress's suspension of the writ for the prisoners held at Guantanamo did not violate the Suspension Clause.
Al-Odah v. United States:
1. Did the D.C. Circuit err in relying again on Johnson v. Eisentrager, 339 U.S. 763 (1950), to dismiss these petition and to hold that petitioners have no common law right to habeas protected by the Suspension Clause and no constitutional rights whatsoever, despite this Court's ruling in Rasul v. Bush, 542 U.S. 466 (2004), that these petitioners are in a fundamentally different position from those in Eisentrager, that their access to the writ is consistent with the historical reach of the writ at common law, and that they are confined within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States?
2. Given that the Court in Rasul concluded that the writ at common law would have extended to persons detained at Guantanamo, did the D.C. Circuit err in holding that petitioners' right to the writ was not protected by the Suspension Clause because they supposedly would not have been entitled to the writ at common law?
3. Are petitioners, who have been detained without charge or trial for more than five years in the exclusive custody of the United States at Guantanamo, a territory under the plenary and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, entitled to the protection of the Fifth Amendment right not to be deprived of liberty without due process of law and of the Geneva Conventions?
4. Should section 7(b) of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which does not explicitly mention habeas corpus, be construed to eliminate the courts' jurisdiction over petitioners' pending habeas cases, thereby creating serious constitutional issues?
Boumediene v. Bush:
1. Whether the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Pub L. No. 109-366, 120 Stat. 2600, validly stripped federal court jurisdiction over habeas corpus petitions filed by foreign citizens imprisoned indefinitely at the United States Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay.
2. Whether Petitioners' habeas corpus petitions, which establish that the United States government has imprisoned Petitioners for over five years, demonstrate unlawful confinement requiring the grant of habeas relief or, at least, a hearing on the merits.