Petitioner Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni national, is in custody at an American prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In November 2001, during hostilities between the United States and the Taliban (which then governed Afghanistan), Hamdan was captured by militia forces and turned over to the U. S. military. In June 2002, he was transported to Guantanamo Bay. Over a year later, the President deemed him eligible for trial by military commission for then-unspecified crimes. After another year had passed, Hamdan was charged with one count of conspiracy "to commit . . . offenses triable by military commission." App. to Pet. for Cert. 65a.
The District Court granted Hamdan's request for a writ of habeas corpus. 344 F.Supp.2d 152 (DC 2004). The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed. 415 F.3d 33 (2005). Recognizing, as we did over a half century ago, that trial by military commission is an extraordinary measure raising important questions about the balance of powers in our constitutional structure, Ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1, 19 (1942), we granted certiorari. 546 U.S. 1002 (2005).
For the reasons that follow, we conclude that the military commission convened to try Hamdan lacks power to proceed because its structure and procedures violate both the UCMJ and the Geneva Conventions. Four of us also conclude, see Part V, infra, that the offense with which Hamdan has been charged is not an "offens[e] that by . . . the law of war may be tried by military commissions." 10 U. S. C. § 821.
On September 11, 2001, agents of the al Qaeda terrorist organization hijacked commercial airplanes and attacked the
Congress responded by adopting a Joint Resolution authorizing the President to "use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks . . . in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons." Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), 115 Stat. 224, note following 50 U. S. C. § 1541 (2000 ed., Supp. III). Acting pursuant to the AUMF, and having determined that the Taliban regime had supported al Qaeda, the President ordered the Armed Forces of the United States to invade Afghanistan. In the ensuing hostilities, hundreds of individuals, Hamdan among them, were captured and eventually detained at Guantanamo Bay.
On November 13, 2001, while the United States was still engaged in active combat with the Taliban, the President issued a comprehensive military order intended to govern the "Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism," 66 Fed. Reg. 57833 (hereinafter November 13 Order or Order). Those subject to the November 13 Order include any noncitizen for whom the President determines "there is reason to believe" that he or she (1) "is or was" a member of al Qaeda or (2) has engaged or participated in terrorist activities aimed at or harmful to the United States. Id., at 57834. Any such individual "shall, when tried, be tried by military commission for any and all offenses triable by military commission that such individual is alleged to have committed, and may be punished in accordance with the penalties provided under applicable law, including life imprisonment or death." Ibid. The November
On July 3, 2003, the President announced his determination that Hamdan and five other detainees at Guantanamo Bay were subject to the November 13 Order and thus triable by military commission. In December 2003, military counsel was appointed to represent Hamdan. Two months later, counsel filed demands for charges and for a speedy trial pursuant to Article 10 of the UCMJ, 10 U. S. C. § 810. On February 23, 2004, the legal adviser to the Appointing Authority denied the applications, ruling that Hamdan was not entitled to any of the protections of the UCMJ. Not until July 13, 2004, after Hamdan had commenced this action in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, did the Government finally charge him with the offense for which, a year earlier, he had been deemed eligible for trial by military commission.
The charging document, which is unsigned, contains 13 numbered paragraphs. The first two paragraphs recite the asserted bases for the military commission's jurisdiction— namely, the November 13 Order and the President's July 3, 2003, declaration that Hamdan is eligible for trial by military commission. The next nine paragraphs, collectively entitled "General Allegations," describe al Qaeda's activities from its inception in 1989 through 2001 and identify Usama bin Laden as the group's leader. Hamdan is not mentioned in these paragraphs.
Only the final two paragraphs, entitled "Charge: Conspiracy," contain allegations against Hamdan. Paragraph 12 charges that "from on or about February 1996 to on or about November 24, 2001," Hamdan "willfully and knowingly
Paragraph 13 lists four "overt acts" that Hamdan is alleged to have committed sometime between 1996 and November 2001 in furtherance of the "enterprise and conspiracy": (1) he acted as Usama bin Laden's "bodyguard and personal driver," "believ[ing]" all the while that bin Laden "and his associates were involved in" terrorist acts prior to and including the attacks of September 11, 2001; (2) he arranged for transportation of, and actually transported, weapons used by al Qaeda members and by bin Laden's bodyguards (Hamdan among them); (3) he "drove or accompanied [U]sama bin Laden to various al Qaida-sponsored training camps, press conferences, or lectures," at which bin Laden encouraged attacks against Americans; and (4) he received weapons training at al Qaeda-sponsored camps. Id., at 65a-67a.
After this formal charge was filed, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington transferred Hamdan's habeas and mandamus petitions to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Meanwhile, a Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) convened pursuant to a military order issued on July 7, 2004, decided that Hamdan's continued detention at Guantanamo Bay was warranted because he was an "enemy combatant."
On November 8, 2004, however, the District Court granted Hamdan's petition for habeas corpus and stayed the commission's proceedings. It concluded that the President's authority to establish military commissions extends only to "offenders or offenses triable by military [commission] under the law of war," 344 F. Supp. 2d, at 158; that the law of war includes the Geneva Convention (III) Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Aug. 12, 1949,  6 U. S. T. 3316, T. I. A. S. No. 3364 (Third Geneva Convention); that Hamdan is entitled to the full protections of the Third Geneva Convention until adjudged, in compliance with that treaty, not to be a prisoner of war; and that, whether or not Hamdan is properly classified as a prisoner of war, the military commission convened to try him was established in violation of both the UCMJ and Common Article 3 of the Third Geneva Convention because it had the power to convict based on evidence the accused would never see or hear. 344 F. Supp. 2d, at 158-172.
The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed. Like the District Court, the Court of Appeals declined the Government's invitation to abstain from considering Hamdan's challenge. Cf. Schlesinger v. Councilman, 420 U.S. 738 (1975). On the merits, the panel rejected the District Court's further conclusion that Hamdan was entitled to relief under the Third Geneva Convention. All three judges agreed that the Geneva Conventions were not "judicially enforceable," 415 F. 3d, at 38, and two thought that the Conventions did not in any event apply to Hamdan, id., at 40-42; but see id., at 44 (Williams, J., concurring). In other portions of its opinion, the court concluded that our decision in Quirin foreclosed any separation-of-powers objection to
On November 7, 2005, we granted certiorari to decide whether the military commission convened to try Hamdan has authority to do so, and whether Hamdan may rely on the Geneva Conventions in these proceedings.
On February 13, 2006, the Government filed a motion to dismiss the writ of certiorari. The ground cited for dismissal was the recently enacted Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (DTA), Pub. L. 109-148, 119 Stat. 2739. We postponed our ruling on that motion pending argument on the merits, 546 U.S. 1166 (2006), and now deny it.
The DTA, which was signed into law on December 30, 2005, addresses a broad swath of subjects related to detainees. It places restrictions on the treatment and interrogation of detainees in U. S. custody, and it furnishes procedural protections for U. S. personnel accused of engaging in improper interrogation. DTA §§ 1002-1004, 119 Stat. 2739-2740. It also sets forth certain "PROCEDURES FOR STATUS REVIEW OF DETAINEES OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES." § 1005, id., at 2740. Subsections (a) through (d) of § 1005 direct the Secretary of Defense to report to Congress the procedures being used by CSRTs to determine the proper classification of detainees held in Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and to adopt certain safeguards as part of those procedures.
Subsection (e) of § 1005, which is entitled "JUDICIAL REVIEW OF DETENTION OF ENEMY COMBATANTS," supplies the basis for the Government's jurisdictional argument. The subsection contains three numbered paragraphs. The first paragraph amends the judicial code as follows:
Paragraph (2) of subsection (e) vests in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit the "exclusive jurisdiction to determine the validity of any final decision of a [CSRT] that an alien is properly detained as an enemy combatant." Paragraph (2) also delimits the scope of that review. See §§ 1005(e)(2)(C)(i)-(ii), id., at 2742.
Paragraph (3) mirrors paragraph (2) in structure, but governs judicial review of final decisions of military commissions, not CSRTs. It vests in the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit "exclusive jurisdiction to determine the validity of any final decision rendered pursuant to Military Commission Order No. 1, dated August 31, 2005 (or any successor military order)." § 1005(e)(3)(A), id., at 2743.
Finally, § 1005 contains an "effective date" provision, which reads as follows:
The DTA is silent about whether paragraph (1) of subsection (e) "shall apply" to claims pending on the date of enactment.
The Government argues that §§ 1005(e)(1) and 1005(h) had the immediate effect, upon enactment, of repealing federal jurisdiction not just over detainee habeas actions yet to be filed but also over any such actions then pending in any federal court—including this Court. Accordingly, it argues, we
Hamdan objects to this theory on both constitutional and statutory grounds. Principal among his constitutional arguments is that the Government's preferred reading raises grave questions about Congress' authority to impinge upon this Court's appellate jurisdiction, particularly in habeas cases. Support for this argument is drawn from Ex parte Yerger, 8 Wall. 85 (1869), in which, having explained that "the denial to this court of appellate jurisdiction" to consider an original writ of habeas corpus would "greatly weaken the efficacy of the writ," id., at 102-103, we held that Congress would not be presumed to have effected such denial absent an unmistakably clear statement to the contrary. See id., at 104-105; see also Felker v. Turpin, 518 U.S. 651 (1996); Durousseau v. United States, 6 Cranch 307, 314 (1810) (opinion for the Court by Marshall, C. J.) (The "appellate powers of this court" are not created by statute but are "given by the constitution"); United States v. Klein, 13 Wall. 128 (1872). Cf. Ex parte McCardle, 7 Wall. 506, 514 (1869) (holding that Congress had validly foreclosed one avenue of appellate review where its repeal of habeas jurisdiction, reproduced in the margin,
We find it unnecessary to reach either of these arguments. Ordinary principles of statutory construction suffice to rebut
The Government acknowledges that only paragraphs (2) and (3) of subsection (e) are expressly made applicable to pending cases, see § 1005(h)(2), 119 Stat. 2743-2744, but argues that the omission of paragraph (1) from the scope of that express statement is of no moment. This is so, we are told, because Congress' failure to expressly reserve federal courts' jurisdiction over pending cases erects a presumption against jurisdiction, and that presumption is rebutted by neither the text nor the legislative history of the DTA.
The first part of this argument is not entirely without support in our precedents. We have in the past "applied intervening statutes conferring or ousting jurisdiction, whether or not jurisdiction lay when the underlying conduct occurred or when the suit was filed." Landgraf v. USI Film Products, 511 U.S. 244, 274 (1994) (citing Bruner v. United States, 343 U.S. 112 (1952); Hallowell v. Commons, 239 U.S. 506 (1916)); see Republic of Austria v. Altmann, 541 U.S. 677, 693 (2004). But the "presumption" that these cases have applied is more accurately viewed as the nonapplication of another presumption—viz., the presumption against retroactivity—in certain limited circumstances.
That does not mean, however, that all jurisdiction-stripping provisions—or even all such provisions that truly lack retroactive effect—must apply to cases pending at the time of their enactment.
A like inference follows a fortiori from Lindh in this case. "If . . . Congress was reasonably concerned to ensure that [§§ 1005(e)(2) and (3)] be applied to pending cases, it should have been just as concerned about [§ 1005(e)(1)], unless it had the different intent that the latter [section] not be applied to the general run of pending cases." Id., at 329. If anything, the evidence of deliberate omission is stronger here than it
This argument must fail because it rests on a false distinction between the "jurisdictional" nature of subsection (e)(1) and the "procedural" character of subsections (e)(2) and (e)(3). In truth, all three provisions govern jurisdiction over detainees' claims; subsection (e)(1) addresses jurisdiction in habeas cases and other actions "relating to any aspect of the detention," while subsections (e)(2) and (e)(3) vest exclusive,
That subsection (e)(1) strips jurisdiction while subsections (e)(2) and (e)(3) restore it in limited form is hardly a distinction upon which a negative inference must founder. JUSTICE SCALIA, in arguing to the contrary, maintains that Congress
The Government's second objection is that applying subsections (e)(2) and (e)(3) but not (e)(1) to pending cases "produces an absurd result" because it grants (albeit only temporarily) dual jurisdiction over detainees' cases in circumstances where the statute plainly envisions that the D. C. Circuit will have "exclusive" and immediate jurisdiction over such cases. Reply Brief in Support of Respondents' Motion to Dismiss 7. But the premise here is faulty; subsections (e)(2) and (e)(3) grant jurisdiction only over actions to "determine the validity of any final decision" of a CSRT or commission. Because Hamdan, at least, is not contesting any "final decision" of a CSRT or military commission, his action does not fall within the scope of subsection (e)(2) or (e)(3). There is, then, no absurdity.
The Government's more general suggestion that Congress can have had no good reason for preserving habeas jurisdiction over cases that had been brought by detainees prior to enactment of the DTA not only is belied by the legislative history, see n. 10, supra, but is otherwise without merit. There is nothing absurd about a scheme under which pending habeas actions—particularly those, like this one, that challenge the very legitimacy of the tribunals whose judgments Congress would like to have reviewed—are preserved, and more routine challenges to final decisions rendered
Finally, we cannot leave unaddressed JUSTICE SCALIA's contentions that the "meaning of § 1005(e)(1) is entirely clear," post, at 660, and that "the plain import of a statute repealing jurisdiction is to eliminate the power to consider and render judgment—in an already pending case no less than in a case yet to be filed," post, at 657 (emphasis in original). Only by treating the Bruner rule as an inflexible trump (a thing it has never been, see n. 7, supra) and ignoring both the rest of § 1005's text and its drafting history can one conclude as much. Congress here expressly provided that subsections (e)(2) and (e)(3) applied to pending cases. It chose not to so provide—after having been presented with the option—for subsection (e)(1). The omission is an integral part of the statutory scheme that muddies whatever "plain meaning" may be discerned from blinkered study of subsection (e)(1) alone. The dissent's speculation about what Congress might have intended by the omission not only is counterfactual, cf. n. 10, supra (recounting legislative history), but rests on both a misconstruction of the DTA and an erroneous view of our precedents, see supra, at 582-583, and n. 12.
For these reasons, we deny the Government's motion to dismiss.
Relying on our decision in Councilman, 420 U.S. 738, the Government argues that, even if we have statutory jurisdiction,
In Councilman, an army officer on active duty was referred to a court-martial for trial on charges that he violated the UCMJ by selling, transferring, and possessing marijuana. 420 U. S., at 739-740. Objecting that the alleged offenses were not "`service connected,'" id., at 740, the officer filed suit in Federal District Court to enjoin the proceedings. He neither questioned the lawfulness of courts-martial or their procedures nor disputed that, as a serviceman, he was subject to court-martial jurisdiction. His sole argument was that the subject matter of his case did not fall within the scope of court-martial authority. See id., at 741, 759. The District Court granted his request for injunctive relief, and the Court of Appeals affirmed.
We granted certiorari and reversed. Id., at 761. We did not reach the merits of whether the marijuana charges were sufficiently "service connected" to place them within the subject-matter jurisdiction of a court-martial. Instead, we concluded that, as a matter of comity, federal courts should normally abstain from intervening in pending court-martial proceedings against members of the Armed Forces,
Councilman identifies two considerations of comity that together favor abstention pending completion of ongoing court-martial proceedings against service personnel. See New v. Cohen, 129 F.3d 639, 643 (CADC 1997); see also 415 F. 3d, at 36-37 (discussing Councilman and New). First, military discipline and, therefore, the efficient operation of the Armed Forces are best served if the military justice system acts without regular interference from civilian courts. See Councilman, 420 U. S., at 752. Second, federal courts should respect the balance that Congress struck between military preparedness and fairness to individual service members when it created "an integrated system of military courts and review procedures, a critical element of which is the Court of Military Appeals consisting of civilian judges `completely removed from all military influence or persuasion. . . .'" Id., at 758 (quoting H. R. Rep. No. 491, 81st Cong., 1st Sess., 7 (1949)). Just as abstention in the face of ongoing state criminal proceedings is justified by our expectation that state courts will enforce federal rights, so abstention in the face of ongoing court-martial proceedings is justified by our expectation that the military court system established by Congress—with its substantial procedural protections and provision for appellate review by independent civilian judges—"will vindicate servicemen's constitutional rights," 420 U. S., at 758. See id., at 755-758.
We have no doubt that the various individuals assigned review power under Commission Order No. 1 would strive to act impartially and ensure that Hamdan receive all protections to which he is entitled. Nonetheless, these review bodies clearly lack the structural insulation from military influence that characterizes the Court of Appeals for the
In sum, neither of the two comity considerations underlying our decision to abstain in Councilman applies to the circumstances of this case. Instead, this Court's decision in Quirin is the most relevant precedent. In Quirin, eight German saboteurs were captured upon arrival by submarine in New York and Florida. 317 U. S., at 21. The President convened a military commission to try seven of the saboteurs, who then filed habeas corpus petitions in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia challenging their trial by commission. We granted the saboteurs' petition for certiorari to the Court of Appeals before judgment. See id., at 19. Far from abstaining pending the conclusion of military proceedings, which were ongoing, we convened a special Term to hear the case and expedited our review. That course of action was warranted, we explained, "[i]n view of the public importance of the questions raised by [the cases] and of the duty which rests on the courts, in time of war as well as in time of peace, to preserve unimpaired the constitutional safeguards of civil liberty, and because in our opinion the public interest required that we consider and decide those questions without any avoidable delay." Ibid.
As the Court of Appeals here recognized, Quirin "provides a compelling historical precedent for the power of civilian courts to entertain challenges that seek to interrupt the
Finally, the Government has identified no other "important countervailing interest" that would permit federal courts to depart from their general "duty to exercise the jurisdiction that is conferred upon them by Congress." Id., at 716 (majority opinion). To the contrary, Hamdan and the Government both have a compelling interest in knowing in advance whether Hamdan may be tried by a military commission that arguably is without any basis in law and operates
The military commission, a tribunal neither mentioned in the Constitution nor created by statute, was born of military necessity. See W. Winthrop, Military Law and Precedents 831 (rev. 2d ed. 1920) (hereinafter Winthrop). Though foreshadowed in some respects by earlier tribunals like the Board of General Officers that General Washington convened to try British Major John André for spying during the Revolutionary War, the commission "as such" was inaugurated in 1847. Id., at 832; G. Davis, A Treatise on the Military Law of the United States 308 (rev. 3d ed. 1915) (hereinafter Davis). As commander of occupied Mexican territory, and having available to him no other tribunal, General Winfield Scott that year ordered the establishment of both "`military commissions'" to try ordinary crimes committed in the occupied territory and a "council of war" to try offenses against the law of war. Winthrop 832 (emphasis in original).
When the exigencies of war next gave rise to a need for use of military commissions, during the Civil War, the dual system favored by General Scott was not adopted. Instead, a single tribunal often took jurisdiction over ordinary crimes, war crimes, and breaches of military orders alike. As further discussed below, each aspect of that seemingly broad jurisdiction was in fact supported by a separate military exigency. Generally, though, the need for military commissions
Exigency alone, of course, will not justify the establishment and use of penal tribunals not contemplated by Article I, § 8, and Article III, § 1, of the Constitution unless some other part of that document authorizes a response to the felt need. See Ex parte Milligan, 4 Wall. 2, 121 (1866) ("Certainly no part of the judicial power of the country was conferred on [military commissions]"); Ex parte Vallandigham, 1 Wall. 243, 251 (1864); see also Quirin, 317 U. S., at 25 ("Congress and the President, like the courts, possess no power not derived from the Constitution"). And that authority, if it exists, can derive only from the powers granted jointly to the President and Congress in time of war. See id., at 26-29; In re Yamashita, 327 U.S. 1, 11 (1946).
The Constitution makes the President the "Commander in Chief" of the Armed Forces, Art. II, § 2, cl. 1, but vests in Congress the powers to "declare War . . . and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water," Art. I, § 8, cl. 11, to "raise and support Armies," id., cl. 12, to "define and punish. . . Offences against the Law of Nations," id., cl. 10, and "To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces," id., cl. 14. The interplay between these powers was described by Chief Justice Chase in the seminal case of Ex parte Milligan:
Whether Chief Justice Chase was correct in suggesting that the President may constitutionally convene military commissions "without the sanction of Congress" in cases of "controlling necessity" is a question this Court has not answered definitively, and need not answer today. For we held in Quirin that Congress had, through Article of War 15, sanctioned the use of military commissions in such circumstances. 317 U. S., at 28 ("By the Articles of War, and especially Article 15, Congress has explicitly provided, so far as it may constitutionally do so, that military tribunals shall have jurisdiction to try offenders or offenses against the law of war in appropriate cases"). Article 21 of the UCMJ, the language of which is substantially identical to the old Article 15 and was preserved by Congress after World War II,
We have no occasion to revisit Quirin's controversial characterization of Article of War 15 as congressional authorization for military commissions. Cf. Brief for Legal Scholars and Historians as Amici Curiae 12-15. Contrary to the Government's assertion, however, even Quirin did not view the authorization as a sweeping mandate for the President to "invoke military commissions when he deems them necessary." Brief for Respondents 17. Rather, the Quirin Court recognized that Congress had simply preserved what power, under the Constitution and the common law of war, the President had had before 1916 to convene military commissions—with the express condition that the President and those under his command comply with the law of war. See 317 U. S., at 28-29.
The Government would have us dispense with the inquiry that the Quirin Court undertook and find in either the AUMF or the DTA specific, overriding authorization for the very commission that has been convened to try Hamdan. Neither of these congressional Acts, however, expands the
Likewise, the DTA cannot be read to authorize this commission. Although the DTA, unlike either Article 21 or the AUMF, was enacted after the President had convened Hamdan's commission, it contains no language authorizing that tribunal or any other at Guantanamo Bay. The DTA obviously "recognize[s]" the existence of the Guantanamo Bay commissions in the weakest sense, Brief for Respondents 15, because it references some of the military orders governing them and creates limited judicial review of their "final decision[s]," DTA § 1005(e)(3), 119 Stat. 2743. But the statute also pointedly reserves judgment on whether "the Constitution and laws of the United States are applicable" in reviewing such decisions and whether, if they are, the "standards and procedures" used to try Hamdan and other detainees actually violate the "Constitution and laws." Ibid.
Together, the UCMJ, the AUMF, and the DTA at most acknowledge a general Presidential authority to convene military
The common law governing military commissions may be gleaned from past practice and what sparse legal precedent exists. Commissions historically have been used in three situations. See Bradley & Goldsmith, Congressional Authorization and the War on Terrorism, 118 Harv. L. Rev. 2048, 2132-2133 (2005); Winthrop 831-846; Hearings on H. R. 2498 before the Subcommittee of the House Committee on Armed Services, 81st Cong., 1st Sess., 975 (1949). First, they have substituted for civilian courts at times and in places where martial law has been declared. Their use in these circumstances has raised constitutional questions, see Duncan v. Kahanamoku, 327 U.S. 304 (1946); Milligan, 4 Wall., at 121-122, but is well recognized.
The third type of commission, convened as an "incident to the conduct of war" when there is a need "to seize and subject to disciplinary measures those enemies who in their attempt to thwart or impede our military effort have violated the law of war," Quirin, 317 U. S., at 28-29, has been described as "utterly different" from the other two. Bickers, Military Commissions are Constitutionally Sound: A Response to Professors Katyal and Tribe, 34 Tex. Tech. L. Rev. 899, 902 (2002-2003).
Quirin is the model the Government invokes most frequently to defend the commission convened to try Hamdan. That is both appropriate and unsurprising. Since Guantanamo Bay is neither enemy-occupied territory nor under martial law, the law-of-war commission is the only model available. At the same time, no more robust model of executive power exists; Quirin represents the high-water mark of military power to try enemy combatants for war crimes.
The classic treatise penned by Colonel William Winthrop, whom we have called "the `Blackstone of Military Law,'" Reid v. Covert, 354 U.S. 1, 19, n. 38 (1957) (plurality opinion), describes at least four preconditions for exercise of jurisdiction by a tribunal of the type convened to try Hamdan. First, "[a] military commission, (except where otherwise authorized by statute), can legally assume jurisdiction only of offences committed within the field of the command of the convening commander." Winthrop 836. The "field of the command" in these circumstances means the "theatre of war." Ibid. Second, the offense charged "must have been committed within the period of the war."
All parties agree that Colonel Winthrop's treatise accurately describes the common law governing military commissions, and that the jurisdictional limitations he identifies were incorporated in Article of War 15 and, later, Article 21 of the UCMJ. It also is undisputed that Hamdan's commission lacks jurisdiction to try him unless the charge "properly set[s] forth, not only the details of the act charged, but the circumstances conferring jurisdiction." Id., at 842 (emphasis in original). The question is whether the preconditions designed to ensure that a military necessity exists to justify the use of this extraordinary tribunal have been satisfied here.
The charge against Hamdan, described in detail in Part I, supra, alleges a conspiracy extending over a number of years, from 1996 to November 2001.
These facts alone cast doubt on the legality of the charge and, hence, the commission; as Winthrop makes plain, the offense alleged must have been committed both in a theater of war and during, not before, the relevant conflict. But the deficiencies in the time and place allegations also underscore—indeed are symptomatic of—the most serious defect of this charge: The offense it alleges is not triable by law-of-war military commission. See Yamashita, 327 U. S., at 13 ("Neither congressional action nor the military orders constituting the commission authorized it to place petitioner on trial unless the charge proffered against him is of a violation of the law of war").
At a minimum, the Government must make a substantial showing that the crime for which it seeks to try a defendant by military commission is acknowledged to be an offense against the law of war. That burden is far from satisfied here. The crime of "conspiracy" has rarely if ever been tried as such in this country by any law-of-war military commission
The Government cites three sources that it says show otherwise. First, it points out that the Nazi saboteurs in Quirin were charged with conspiracy. See Brief for Respondents 27. Second, it observes that Winthrop at one
That the defendants in Quirin were charged with conspiracy is not persuasive, since the Court declined to address whether the offense actually qualified as a violation of the law of war—let alone one triable by military commission. The Quirin defendants were charged with the following offenses:
The Government, defending its charge, argued that the conspiracy alleged "constitute[d] an additional violation of the law of war." Id., at 15. The saboteurs disagreed; they maintained that "[t]he charge of conspiracy can not stand if the other charges fall." Id., at 8. The Court, however, declined to resolve the dispute. It concluded, first, that the
Turning to the other charges alleged, the Court explained that "[s]ince the first specification of Charge I sets forth a violation of the law of war, we have no occasion to pass on the adequacy of the second specification of Charge I, or to construe the 81st and 82nd Articles of War for the purpose of ascertaining whether the specifications under Charges II and III allege violations of those Articles or whether if so construed they are constitutional." Id., at 46. No mention was made at all of Charge IV—the conspiracy charge.
If anything, Quirin supports Hamdan's argument that conspiracy is not a violation of the law of war. Not only did the Court pointedly omit any discussion of the conspiracy charge, but its analysis of Charge I placed special emphasis on the completion of an offense; it took seriously the saboteurs' argument that there can be no violation of a law of war—at least not one triable by military commission —without the
That limitation makes eminent sense when one considers the necessity from whence this kind of military commission grew: The need to dispense swift justice, often in the form of execution, to illegal belligerents captured on the battlefield. See S. Rep. No. 130, 64th Cong., 1st Sess., 40 (1916) (testimony of Brig. Gen. Enoch H. Crowder) (observing that Article of War 15 preserves the power of "the military commander in the field in time of war" to use military commissions (emphasis added)). The same urgency would not have been felt vis-à-vis enemies who had done little more than agree to violate the laws of war. Cf. 31 Op. Atty. Gen. 356, 357, 361 (1918) (opining that a German spy could not be tried by military commission because, having been apprehended before entering "any camp, fortification or other military premises of the United States," he had "committed [his offenses] outside of the field of military operations"). The Quirin Court acknowledged as much when it described the President's authority to use law-of-war military commissions as the power to "seize and subject to disciplinary measures those enemies who in their attempt to thwart or impede our military effort have violated the law of war." 317 U. S., at 28-29 (emphasis added).
Winthrop and Howland are only superficially more helpful to the Government. Howland, granted, lists "conspiracy by two or more to violate the laws of war by destroying life or property in aid of the enemy" as one of over 20 "offenses against the laws and usages of war" "passed upon and punished by military commissions." Howland 1070-1071. But while the records of cases that Howland cites following his list of offenses against the law of war support inclusion of the other offenses mentioned, they provide no support for the inclusion of conspiracy as a violation of the law of war. See id., at 1071 (citing Record Books of the Judge Advocate General Office, R. 2, 144; R. 3, 401, 589, 649; R. 4, 320; R. 5,
Winthrop does, unsurprisingly, include "criminal conspiracies" in his list of "[c]rimes and statutory offenses cognizable by State or U. S. courts" and triable by martial law or military government commission. See id., at 839. And, in a footnote, he cites several Civil War examples of "conspiracies of this class, or of the first and second classes combined." Id., at 839, n. 5 (emphasis added). The Government relies on this footnote for its contention that conspiracy was triable both as an ordinary crime (a crime of the "first class") and, independently, as a war crime (a crime of the "second class"). But the footnote will not support the weight the Government places on it.
As we have seen, the military commissions convened during the Civil War functioned at once as martial law or military government tribunals and as law-of-war commissions. See n. 27, supra. Accordingly, they regularly tried war crimes and ordinary crimes together. Indeed, as Howland observes, "[n]ot unfrequently the crime, as charged and found, was a combination of the two species of offenses." Howland 1071; see also Davis 310, n. 2; Winthrop 842. The example he gives is "`murder in violation of the laws of war.'" Howland 1071-1072. Winthrop's conspiracy "of the first and second classes combined" is, like Howland's example, best understood as a species of compound offense of the type tried by the hybrid military commissions of the Civil War. It is not a stand-alone offense against the law of war. Winthrop confirms this understanding later in his discussion, when he emphasizes that "overt acts" constituting war crimes are the only proper subject at least of those military tribunals not convened to stand in for local courts. Winthrop 841, and nn. 22, 23 (citing W. Finlason, Martial Law 130 (1867); emphasis in original).
In sum, the sources that the Government and Justice THOMAS rely upon to show that conspiracy to violate the law of war is itself a violation of the law of war in fact demonstrate quite the opposite. Far from making the requisite substantial showing, the Government has failed even to offer a "merely colorable" case for inclusion of conspiracy among those offenses cognizable by law-of-war military commission. Cf. Quirin, 317 U. S., at 36. Because the charge does not
The charge's shortcomings are not merely formal, but are indicative of a broader inability on the Executive's part here to satisfy the most basic precondition—at least in the absence of specific congressional authorization—for establishment of military commissions: military necessity. Hamdan's tribunal was appointed not by a military commander in the field of battle, but by a retired major general stationed away from any active hostilities. Cf. Rasul v. Bush, 542 U. S., at 487 (KENNEDY, J., concurring in judgment) (observing that "Guantanamo Bay is . . . far removed from any hostilities"). Hamdan is charged not with an overt act for which he was caught redhanded in a theater of war and which military efficiency demands be tried expeditiously, but with an agreement the inception of which long predated the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the AUMF. That may well be a crime,
Whether or not the Government has charged Hamdan with an offense against the law of war cognizable by military commission, the commission lacks power to proceed. The UCMJ conditions the President's use of military commissions on compliance not only with the American common law of war, but also with the rest of the UCMJ itself, insofar as applicable, and with the "rules and precepts of the law of nations," Quirin, 317 U. S., at 28 —including, inter alia, the four Geneva Conventions signed in 1949. See Yamashita, 327 U. S., at 20-21, 23-24. The procedures that the Government has decreed will govern Hamdan's trial by commission violate these laws.
The commission's procedures are set forth in Commission Order No. 1, which was amended most recently on August 31, 2005—after Hamdan's trial had already begun. Every commission established pursuant to Commission Order No. 1 must have a presiding officer and at least three other members, all of whom must be commissioned officers. § 4(A)(1). The presiding officer's job is to rule on questions of law and other evidentiary and interlocutory issues; the other members make findings and, if applicable, sentencing decisions. § 4(A)(5). The accused is entitled to appointed military counsel and may hire civilian counsel at his own expense so long as such counsel is a U. S. citizen with security clearance "at the level SECRET or higher." §§ 4(C)(2)-(3).
The accused also is entitled to a copy of the charge(s) against him, both in English and his own language (if different), to a presumption of innocence, and to certain other rights typically afforded criminal defendants in civilian courts and courts-martial. See §§ 5(A)-(P). These rights
Another striking feature of the rules governing Hamdan's commission is that they permit the admission of any evidence that, in the opinion of the presiding officer, "would have probative value to a reasonable person." § 6(D)(1). Under this test, not only is testimonial hearsay and evidence obtained through coercion fully admissible, but neither live testimony nor witnesses' written statements need be sworn. See §§ 6(D)(2)(b), (3). Moreover, the accused and his civilian counsel may be denied access to evidence in the form of "protected information" (which includes classified information as well as "information protected by law or rule from unauthorized disclosure" and "information concerning other national security interests," §§ 6(B)(3), 6(D)(5)(a)(v)), so long as the presiding officer concludes that the evidence is "probative" under § 6(D)(1) and that its admission without the accused's knowledge would not "result in the denial of a full and fair trial." § 6(D)(5)(b).
Once all the evidence is in, the commission members (not including the presiding officer) must vote on the accused's guilt. A two-thirds vote will suffice for both a verdict of guilty and for imposition of any sentence not including death (the imposition of which requires a unanimous vote). § 6(F). Any appeal is taken to a three-member review panel composed of military officers and designated by the Secretary of Defense, only one member of which need have experience as a judge. § 6(H)(4). The review panel is directed to "disregard any variance from procedures specified in this Order or elsewhere that would not materially have affected the outcome of the trial before the Commission." Ibid. Once the panel makes its recommendation to the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary can either remand for further proceedings or forward the record to the President with his recommendation as to final disposition. § 6(H)(5). The President then, unless he has delegated the task to the Secretary, makes the "final decision." § 6(H)(6). He may change the commission's findings or sentence only in a manner favorable to the accused. Ibid.
Hamdan raises both general and particular objections to the procedures set forth in Commission Order No. 1. His general objection is that the procedures' admitted deviation from those governing courts-martial itself renders the commission illegal. Chief among his particular objections are that he may, under the Commission Order, be convicted
The Government objects to our consideration of any procedural challenge at this stage on the grounds that (1) the abstention doctrine espoused in Councilman, 420 U.S. 738, precludes preenforcement review of procedural rules, (2) Hamdan will be able to raise any such challenge following a "final decision" under the DTA, and (3) "there is . . . no basis to presume, before the trial has even commenced, that the trial will not be conducted in good faith and according to law." Brief for Respondents 45-46, nn. 20-21. The first of these contentions was disposed of in Part III, supra, and neither of the latter two is sound.
First, because Hamdan apparently is not subject to the death penalty (at least as matters now stand) and may receive a sentence shorter than 10 years' imprisonment, he has no automatic right to review of the commission's "final decision"
In part because the difference between military commissions and courts-martial originally was a difference of jurisdiction alone, and in part to protect against abuse and ensure evenhandedness under the pressures of war, the procedures governing trials by military commission historically have been the same as those governing courts-martial. See, e. g., 1 The War of the Rebellion 248 (2d series 1894) (General Order 1 issued during the Civil War required military commissions to "be constituted in a similar manner and their proceedings be conducted according to the same general rules as courts-martial in order to prevent abuses which might otherwise arise"). Accounts of commentators from Winthrop through General Crowder—who drafted Article of War 15 and whose views have been deemed "authoritative" by this Court, Madsen, 343 U. S., at 353—confirm as much.
There is a glaring historical exception to this general rule. The procedures and evidentiary rules used to try General Yamashita near the end of World War II deviated in significant respects from those then governing courts-martial.
Yamashita, from late 1944 until September 1945, was Commanding General of the Fourteenth Army Group of the Imperial Japanese Army, which had exercised control over the Philippine Islands. On September 3, 1945, after American forces regained control of the Philippines, Yamashita surrendered. Three weeks later, he was charged with violations of the law of war. A few weeks after that, he was arraigned before a military commission convened in the Philippines. He pleaded not guilty, and his trial lasted for two months. On December 7, 1945, Yamashita was convicted and sentenced to hang. See id., at 5; id., at 31-34 (Murphy, J., dissenting). This Court upheld the denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
The procedures and rules of evidence employed during Yamashita's trial departed so far from those used in courts-martial that they generated an unusually long and vociferous critique from two Members of this Court. See id., at 41-81 (Rutledge, J., joined by Murphy, J., dissenting).
At least partially in response to subsequent criticism of General Yamashita's trial, the UCMJ's codification of the Articles of War after World War II expanded the category of persons subject thereto to include defendants in Yamashita's (and Hamdan's) position,
The uniformity principle is not an inflexible one; it does not preclude all departures from the procedures dictated for use by courts-martial. But any departure must be tailored to the exigency that necessitates it. See Winthrop 835, n. 81. That understanding is reflected in Article 36 of the UCMJ, which provides:
Article 36 places two restrictions on the President's power to promulgate rules of procedure for courts-martial and military commissions alike. First, no procedural rule he adopts may be "contrary to or inconsistent with" the UCMJ—however practical it may seem. Second, the rules adopted must be "uniform insofar as practicable." That is, the rules applied to military commissions must be the same as those applied to courts-martial unless such uniformity proves impracticable.
The Government has three responses. First, it argues, only 9 of the UCMJ's 158 Articles—the ones that expressly mention "military commissions"
Hamdan has the better of this argument. Without reaching the question whether any provision of Commission Order No. 1 is strictly "contrary to or inconsistent with" other provisions of the UCMJ, we conclude that the "practicability" determination the President has made is insufficient to justify variances from the procedures governing courts-martial. Subsection (b) of Article 36 was added after World War II, and requires a different showing of impracticability from the one required by subsection (a). Subsection (a) requires that the rules the President promulgates for courts-martial, provost courts, and military commissions alike conform to those that govern procedures in Article III courts, "so far as he considers practicable." 10 U. S. C. § 836(a) (emphasis added). Subsection (b), by contrast, demands that the rules applied in courts-martial, provost courts, and military commissions— whether or not they conform with the Federal Rules of Evidence—be "uniform insofar as practicable." § 836(b) (emphasis added). Under the latter provision, then, the rules set forth in the Manual for Courts-Martial must apply to military commissions unless impracticable.
Nothing in the record before us demonstrates that it would be impracticable to apply court-martial rules in this case. There is no suggestion, for example, of any logistical difficulty in securing properly sworn and authenticated evidence or in applying the usual principles of relevance and admissibility. Assuming, arguendo, that the reasons articulated in the President's Article 36(a) determination ought to be considered in evaluating the impracticability of applying court-martial rules, the only reason offered in support of that determination is the danger posed by international terrorism.
The absence of any showing of impracticability is particularly disturbing when considered in light of the clear and admitted failure to apply one of the most fundamental protections afforded not just by the Manual for Courts-Martial but also by the UCMJ itself: the right to be present. See 10 U. S. C. § 839(c) (2000 ed., Supp. V). Whether or not that departure technically is "contrary to or inconsistent with" the terms of the UCMJ, 10 U. S. C. § 836(a), the jettisoning of so basic a right cannot lightly be excused as "practicable."
Under the circumstances, then, the rules applicable in courts-martial must apply. Since it is undisputed that Commission Order No. 1 deviates in many significant respects from those rules, it necessarily violates Article 36(b).
The Government's objection that requiring compliance with the court-martial rules imposes an undue burden both ignores the plain meaning of Article 36(b) and misunderstands the purpose and the history of military commissions. The military commission was not born of a desire to dispense a more summary form of justice than is afforded by courts-martial; it developed, rather, as a tribunal of necessity to be employed when courts-martial lacked jurisdiction over either the accused or the subject matter. See Winthrop 831. Exigency lent the commission its legitimacy, but did not further justify the wholesale jettisoning of procedural protections.
The procedures adopted to try Hamdan also violate the Geneva Conventions. The Court of Appeals dismissed Hamdan's Geneva Convention challenge on three independent grounds: (1) the Geneva Conventions are not judicially enforceable; (2) Hamdan in any event is not entitled to their protections; and (3) even if he is entitled to their protections, Councilman abstention is appropriate. Judge Williams, concurring, rejected the second ground but agreed with the
The Court of Appeals relied on Johnson v. Eisentrager, 339 U.S. 763 (1950), to hold that Hamdan could not invoke the Geneva Conventions to challenge the Government's plan to prosecute him in accordance with Commission Order No. 1. Eisentrager involved a challenge by 21 German nationals to their 1945 convictions for war crimes by a military tribunal convened in Nanking, China, and to their subsequent imprisonment in occupied Germany. The petitioners argued, inter alia, that the 1929 Geneva Convention rendered illegal some of the procedures employed during their trials, which they said deviated impermissibly from the procedures used by courts-martial to try American soldiers. See id., at 789. We rejected that claim on the merits because the petitioners (unlike Hamdan here) had failed to identify any prejudicial disparity "between the Commission that tried [them] and those that would try an offending soldier of the American forces of like rank," and in any event could claim no protection, under the 1929 Geneva Convention, during trials for crimes that occurred before their confinement as prisoners of war. Id., at 790.
The Court of Appeals, on the strength of this footnote, held that "the 1949 Geneva Convention does not confer upon Hamdan a right to enforce its provisions in court." 415 F. 3d, at 40.
Whatever else might be said about the Eisentrager footnote, it does not control this case. We may assume that "the obvious scheme" of the 1949 Conventions is identical in all relevant respects to that of the 1929 Geneva Convention,
For the Court of Appeals, acknowledgment of that condition was no bar to Hamdan's trial by commission. As an alternative to its holding that Hamdan could not invoke the Geneva Conventions at all, the Court of Appeals concluded that the Conventions did not in any event apply to the armed conflict during which Hamdan was captured. The court accepted the Executive's assertions that Hamdan was captured in connection with the United States' war with al Qaeda and that that war is distinct from the war with the Taliban in Afghanistan. It further reasoned that the war with al Qaeda evades the reach of the Geneva Conventions. See 415 F. 3d, at 41-42. We, like Judge Williams, disagree with the latter conclusion.
The conflict with al Qaeda is not, according to the Government, a conflict to which the full protections afforded detainees under the 1949 Geneva Conventions apply because Article 2 of those Conventions (which appears in all four Conventions) renders the full protections applicable only to "all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting
We need not decide the merits of this argument because there is at least one provision of the Geneva Conventions that applies here even if the relevant conflict is not one between signatories.
The Court of Appeals thought, and the Government asserts, that Common Article 3 does not apply to Hamdan because the conflict with al Qaeda, being "`international in scope,'" does not qualify as a "`conflict not of an international character.'" 415 F. 3d, at 41. That reasoning is erroneous. The term "conflict not of an international character" is used here in contradistinction to a conflict between nations. So much is demonstrated by the "fundamental logic [of] the Convention's provisions on its application." Id., at 44 (Williams, J., concurring). Common Article 2 provides that "the present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties." 6 U. S. T., at 3318 (Art. 2, ¶ 1). High Contracting Parties (signatories) also must abide by all terms of the Conventions vis-à-vis one another even if one party to the conflict is a nonsignatory "Power," and must so abide vis-à-vis the nonsignatory if "the latter accepts and applies" those terms. Ibid. (Art. 2, ¶ 3). Common Article 3, by contrast, affords some minimal protection, falling short of full protection under the Conventions, to individuals associated with neither a signatory nor even a nonsignatory "Power" who are involved in a conflict "in the territory of" a signatory. The latter kind of conflict is distinguishable from the conflict described in Common Article 2 chiefly because it does not involve a clash between nations (whether signatories or not). In context, then, the phrase "not of an international character" bears its literal meaning. See, e. g., J. Bentham, Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation 6, 296 (J.
Although the official commentaries accompanying Common Article 3 indicate that an important purpose of the provision was to furnish minimal protection to rebels involved in one kind of "conflict not of an international character," i. e., a civil war, see GCIII Commentary 36-37, the commentaries also make clear "that the scope of application of the Article must be as wide as possible," id., at 36.
Common Article 3, then, is applicable here and, as indicated above, requires that Hamdan be tried by a "regularly
The Government offers only a cursory defense of Hamdan's military commission in light of Common Article 3. See Brief for Respondents 49-50. As Justice KENNEDY explains, that defense fails because "[t]he regular military courts in our system are the courts-martial established by congressional statutes." Post, at 644 (opinion concurring in part). At a minimum, a military commission "can be `regularly constituted' by the standards of our military justice system
Inextricably intertwined with the question of regular constitution is the evaluation of the procedures governing the tribunal and whether they afford "all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples." 6 U. S. T., at 3320 (Art. 3, ¶ 1(d)). Like the phrase "regularly constituted court," this phrase is not defined in the text of the Geneva Conventions. But it must be understood to incorporate at least the barest of those trial protections that have been recognized by customary international law. Many of these are described in Article 75 of Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, adopted in 1977 (Protocol I). Although the United States declined to ratify Protocol I, its objections were not to Article 75 thereof. Indeed, it appears that the Government "regard[s] the provisions of Article 75 as an articulation of safeguards to which all persons in the hands of an enemy are entitled." Taft, The Law of Armed Conflict After 9/11: Some Salient Features, 28 Yale J. Int'l L. 319, 322 (2003). Among the rights set forth in Article 75 is the "right to be tried in [one's] presence." Protocol I, Art. 75(4)(e).
Common Article 3 obviously tolerates a great degree of flexibility in trying individuals captured during armed conflict; its requirements are general ones, crafted to accommodate a wide variety of legal systems. But requirements they are nonetheless. The commission that the President has convened to try Hamdan does not meet those requirements.
We have assumed, as we must, that the allegations made in the Government's charge against Hamdan are true. We have assumed, moreover, the truth of the message implicit in that charge—viz., that Hamdan is a dangerous individual whose beliefs, if acted upon, would cause great harm and even death to innocent civilians, and who would act upon those beliefs if given the opportunity. It bears emphasizing that Hamdan does not challenge, and we do not today address, the Government's power to detain him for the duration of active hostilities in order to prevent such harm. But in undertaking to try Hamdan and subject him to criminal punishment, the Executive is bound to comply with the rule of law that prevails in this jurisdiction.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings.
It is so ordered.
The Chief Justice took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
The dissenters say that today's decision would "sorely hamper the President's ability to confront and defeat a new and deadly enemy." Post, at 705 (opinion of THOMAS, J.). They suggest that it undermines our Nation's ability to "preven[t] future attacks" of the grievous sort that we have already suffered. Post, at 724. That claim leads me to state briefly what I believe the majority sets forth both explicitly and implicitly at greater length. The Court's conclusion ultimately rests upon a single ground: Congress has not issued the Executive a "blank check." Cf. Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507, 536 (2004) (plurality opinion). Indeed, Congress has denied the President the legislative authority to create military commissions of the kind at issue here. Nothing prevents the President from returning to Congress to seek the authority he believes necessary.
Where, as here, no emergency prevents consultation with Congress, judicial insistence upon that consultation does not weaken our Nation's ability to deal with danger. To the contrary, that insistence strengthens the Nation's ability to determine—through democratic means—how best to do so. The Constitution places its faith in those democratic means. Our Court today simply does the same.
Justice KENNEDY, with whom Justice SOUTER, Justice GINSBURG, and Justice BREYER join as to Parts I and II, concurring in part.
Military Commission Order No. 1, which governs the military commission established to try petitioner Salim Hamdan for war crimes, exceeds limits that certain statutes, duly enacted by Congress, have placed on the President's authority to convene military courts. This is not a case, then, where the Executive can assert some unilateral authority to fill a void left by congressional inaction. It is a case where Congress, in the proper exercise of its powers as an independent
These principles seem vindicated here, for a case that may be of extraordinary importance is resolved by ordinary rules. The rules of most relevance here are those pertaining to the authority of Congress and the interpretation of its enactments.
It seems appropriate to recite these rather fundamental points because the Court refers, as it should in its exposition of the case, to the requirement of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 that military tribunals be "regularly constituted," ante, at 632—a requirement that controls here, if for no other reason, because Congress requires that military commissions like the ones at issue conform to the "law of war," 10 U. S. C. § 821. Whatever the substance and content of the term "regularly constituted" as interpreted in this and any later cases, there seems little doubt that it relies upon the importance of standards deliberated upon and chosen in advance of crisis, under a system where the single power of the Executive is checked by other constitutional mechanisms. All of which returns us to the point of beginning—that domestic statutes control this case. If Congress, after due consideration, deems it appropriate to change the controlling statutes, in conformance with the Constitution and other laws, it has the power and prerogative to do so.
Trial by military commission raises separation-of-powers concerns of the highest order. Located within a single branch, these courts carry the risk that offenses will be defined, prosecuted, and adjudicated by executive officials without independent review. Cf. Loving v. United States, 517 U.S. 748, 756-758, 760 (1996). Concentration of power puts personal liberty in peril of arbitrary action by officials, an incursion the Constitution's three-part system is designed to avoid. It is imperative, then, that when military tribunals are established, full and proper authority exists for the Presidential directive.
The proper framework for assessing whether executive actions are authorized is the three-part scheme used by Justice Jackson in his opinion in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579 (1952). "When the President acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization of Congress, his authority is at its maximum, for it includes all that he possesses in his own right plus all that Congress can delegate." Id., at 635. "When the President acts in absence of either a congressional grant or denial of authority, he can only rely upon his own independent powers, but there is a zone of twilight in which he and Congress may have concurrent authority, or in which its distribution is uncertain." Id., at 637. And "[w]hen the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, his power is at its lowest ebb." Ibid.
In this case, as the Court observes, the President has acted in a field with a history of congressional participation and regulation. Ante, at 593, 619-620. In the Uniform Code
One limit on the President's authority is contained in Article 36 of the UCMJ. That section provides:
As the Court further instructs, even assuming the first and second requirements of § 836 are satisfied here—a matter of some dispute, see ante, at 620-622—the third requires us to compare the military-commission procedures with those for courts-martial and determine, to the extent there are deviations, whether greater uniformity would be practicable. Ante, at 623-625. Although we can assume the President's practicability judgments are entitled to some deference, the Court observes that Congress' choice of language in the uniformity provision of 10 U. S. C. § 836(b) contrasts with the language of § 836(a). This difference suggests, at the least, a lower degree of deference for § 836(b) determinations. Ante, at 623. The rules for military courts may depart from federal-court rules whenever the President "considers" conformity impracticable, § 836(a); but the statute requires procedural uniformity across different military courts "insofar as [uniformity is] practicable," § 836(b), not insofar as the President considers it to be so. The Court is right to conclude this is of relevance to our decision. Further, as the Court is also correct to conclude, ante, at 623-624, the term "practicable" cannot be construed to permit deviations based on mere convenience or expedience. "Practicable" means "feasible," that is, "possible to practice or perform" or "capable of being put into practice, done, or accomplished." Webster's
In addition to § 836, a second UCMJ provision, 10 U. S. C. § 821, requires us to compare the commissions at issue to courts-martial. This provision states:
In § 821 Congress has addressed the possibility that special military commissions—criminal courts other than courts-martial—may at times be convened. At the same time, however, the President's authority to convene military commissions is limited: It extends only to "offenders or offenses" that "by statute or by the law of war may be tried by" such military commissions. Ibid.; see also ante, at 593. The Government does not claim to base the charges against Hamdan on a statute; instead it invokes the law of war. That law, as the Court explained in Ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1 (1942), derives from "rules and precepts of the law of nations"; it is the body of international law governing armed conflict. Id., at 28. If the military commission at issue is illegal under the law of war, then an offender cannot be tried "by the law of war" before that commission.
The Court is correct to concentrate on one provision of the law of war that is applicable to our Nation's armed conflict
The dissent by Justice THOMAS argues that Common Article 3 nonetheless is irrelevant to this case because in Johnson v. Eisentrager, 339 U.S. 763 (1950), it was said to be the "obvious scheme" of the 1929 Geneva Convention that "[r]ights of alien enemies are vindicated under it only through protests and intervention of protecting powers," i. e., signatory states, id., at 789, n. 14. As the Court explains, ante, at 626-628, this language from Eisentrager is not controlling here. Even assuming the Eisentrager analysis has some bearing upon the analysis of the broader 1949 Conventions and that, in consequence, rights are vindicated "under [those Conventions]" only through protests and intervention, 339 U. S., at 789, n. 14, Common Article 3 is nonetheless relevant to the question of authorization under § 821. Common Article 3 is part of the law of war that Congress has directed the President to follow in establishing military
In another military-commission case, In re Yamashita, 327 U.S. 1 (1946), the Court likewise considered on the merits—without any caveat about remedies under the Convention—a claim that an alleged violation of the 1929 Convention "establish[ed] want of authority in the commission to proceed with the trial." Id., at 23, 24. That is the precise inquiry we are asked to perform here.
Assuming the President has authority to establish a special military commission to try Hamdan, the commission must satisfy Common Article 3's requirement of a "regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples," 6 U. S. T., at 3320. The terms of this general standard are yet to be elaborated and further defined, but Congress has required compliance with it by referring to the "law of war" in § 821. The Court correctly concludes that the military commission here does not comply with this provision.
Common Article 3's standard of a "regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples," ibid., supports, at the least, a uniformity principle similar to that codified in § 836(b). The concept of a "regularly constituted court" providing "indispensable" judicial guarantees requires consideration of the system of justice under which the commission is established, though no doubt certain minimum standards are applicable. See ante, at 632-633; 1 Int'l Comm. of Red Cross, 1 Customary Int'l Humanitarian Law 355 (2005) (explaining that courts are "regularly constituted" under Common Article 3 if they are "established and organised in accordance with the laws and procedures already in force in a country").
At a minimum a military commission like the one at issue—a commission specially convened by the President to try specific persons without express congressional authorization—can be "regularly constituted" by the standards of our military justice system only if some practical need explains deviations from court-martial practice. In this regard the standard of Common Article 3, applied here in conformity with § 821, parallels the practicability standard of § 836(b). Section 836, however, is limited by its terms to matters properly characterized as procedural—that is, "[p]retrial, trial, and post-trial procedures"—while Common Article 3 permits broader consideration of matters of structure, organization, and mechanisms to promote the tribunal's insulation from command influence. Thus the combined effect of the two statutes discussed here—§§ 836 and 821—is that considerations of practicability must support departures from court-martial
These principles provide the framework for an analysis of the specific military commission at issue here.
In assessing the validity of Hamdan's military commission the precise circumstances of this case bear emphasis. The allegations against Hamdan are undoubtedly serious. Captured in Afghanistan during our Nation's armed conflict with the Taliban and al Qaeda—a conflict that continues as we speak—Hamdan stands accused of overt acts in furtherance of a conspiracy to commit terrorism: delivering weapons and ammunition to al Qaeda, acquiring trucks for use by Usama bin Laden's bodyguards, providing security services to bin Laden, and receiving weapons training at a terrorist camp. App. to Pet. for Cert. 65a-67a. Nevertheless, the circumstances of Hamdan's trial present no exigency requiring special speed or precluding careful consideration of evidence. For roughly four years, Hamdan has been detained at a permanent United States military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And regardless of the outcome of the criminal proceedings at issue, the Government claims authority to continue to detain him based on his status as an enemy combatant.
Against this background, the Court is correct to conclude that the military commission the President has convened to try Hamdan is unauthorized. Ante, at 625, 631-633, 635. The following analysis, which expands on the Court's discussion, explains my reasons for reaching this conclusion.
Under the UCMJ, courts-martial are organized by a "convening authority"—either a commanding officer, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary concerned, or the President. 10 U. S. C. §§ 822-824 (2000 ed. and Supp. III). The convening authority refers charges for trial, Manual for Courts-Martial, United States, Rule for Courts-Martial 401 (2005 ed.) (hereinafter R. C. M.), and selects the court-martial members who vote on the guilt or innocence of the accused and determine the sentence, 10 U. S. C. §§ 825(d)(2), 851-852 (2000 ed.); R. C. M. 503(a). Paralleling this structure, under MCO No. 1 an "`Appointing Authority'"—either the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary's "designee"—establishes commissions subject to the order, MCO No. 1, § 2, approves and refers charges to be tried by those commissions, § 4(B)(2)(a), and appoints commission members who vote on the conviction and sentence, §§ 4(A) (1)-(3). In addition the Appointing Authority determines the number of commission members (at least three), oversees the chief prosecutor, provides "investigative or other resources" to the defense insofar as he or she "deems necessary for a full and fair trial," approves or rejects plea agreements, approves or disapproves communications with news media by prosecution or defense counsel (a function shared by the General Counsel of the Department of Defense), and issues supplementary commission regulations (subject to approval by the General Counsel of the Department of Defense, unless the Appointing Authority is the Secretary of Defense). See MCO No. 1, §§ 4(A)(2), 5(H), 6(A)(4), 7(A); Military Commission Instruction No. 3, § 5(C) (July 15, 2005) (hereinafter MCI), available at www.
Against the background of these significant powers for the Appointing Authority, which in certain respects at least conform to ordinary court-martial standards, the regulations governing the commissions at issue make several noteworthy departures. At a general court-martial—the only type authorized to impose penalties of more than one year's incarceration or to adjudicate offenses against the law of war, R. C. M. 201(f); 10 U. S. C. §§ 818-820 (2000 ed. and Supp. III)—the presiding officer who rules on legal issues must be a military judge. R. C. M. 501(a)(1), 801(a)(4)-(5); 10 U. S. C. § 816(1) (2000 ed., Supp. III); see also R. C. M. 201(f)(2)(B)(ii) (likewise requiring a military judge for certain other courts-martial); 10 U. S. C. § 819 (2000 ed. and Supp. III) (same). A military judge is an officer who is a member of a state or federal bar and has been specially certified for judicial duties by the Judge Advocate General for the officer's Armed Service. R. C. M. 502(c); 10 U. S. C. § 826(b). To protect their independence, military judges at general courts-martial are "assigned and directly responsible to the Judge Advocate General or the Judge Advocate General's designee." R. C. M. 502(c). They must be detailed to the court, in accordance with applicable regulations, "by a person assigned as a military judge and directly responsible to the Judge Advocate General or the Judge Advocate General's designee." R. C. M. 503(b); see also 10 U. S. C. § 826(c); see generally Weiss v. United States, 510 U.S. 163, 179-181 (1994) (discussing provisions that "insulat[e] military judges from the effects of command influence" and thus "preserve judicial impartiality"). Here, by contrast, the Appointing Authority selects the presiding officer, MCO No. 1, §§ 4(A)(1), (A)(4);
The Appointing Authority, moreover, exercises supervisory powers that continue during trial. Any interlocutory question "the disposition of which would effect a termination of proceedings with respect to a charge" is subject to decision not by the presiding officer, but by the Appointing Authority. § 4(A)(5)(e) (stating that the presiding officer "shall certify" such questions to the Appointing Authority). Other interlocutory questions may be certified to the Appointing Authority as the presiding officer "deems appropriate." Ibid. While in some circumstances the Government may appeal certain rulings at a court-martial—including "an order or ruling that terminates the proceedings with respect to a charge or specification," R. C. M. 908(a); see also 10 U. S. C. § 862(a)—the appeals go to a body called the Court of Criminal Appeals, not to the convening authority. R. C. M. 908; 10 U. S. C. § 862(b); see also R. C. M. 1107 (requiring the convening authority to approve or disapprove the findings and sentence of a court-martial but providing for such action only after entry of sentence and restricting actions that increase penalties); 10 U. S. C. § 860 (same); cf. § 837(a) (barring command influence on court-martial actions). The Court of Criminal Appeals functions as the military's intermediate appeals court; it is established by the Judge Advocate General for each Armed Service and composed of appellate military judges. R. C. M. 1203; 10 U. S. C. § 866. This is another means in which, by structure and tradition, the court-martial process is insulated from those who have an interest in the outcome of the proceedings.
Finally, in addition to these powers with respect to the presiding officer, the Appointing Authority has greater flexibility in appointing commission members. While a general court-martial requires, absent a contrary election by the accused, at least five members, R. C. M. 501(a)(1); 10 U. S. C. § 816(1) (2000 ed. and Supp. III), the Appointing Authority
As compared to the role of the convening authority in a court-martial, the greater powers of the Appointing Authority here—including even the resolution of dispositive issues in the middle of the trial—raise concerns that the commission's decisionmaking may not be neutral. If the differences are supported by some practical need beyond the goal of constant and ongoing supervision, that need is neither apparent from the record nor established by the Government's submissions.
It is no answer that, at the end of the day, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (DTA), 119 Stat. 2739, affords military-commission defendants the opportunity for judicial review in federal court. As the Court is correct to observe, the scope of that review is limited, DTA § 1005(e)(3)(D), id., at 2743; see also ante, at 573-574, and the review is not automatic if the defendant's sentence is under 10 years, § 1005(e)(3)(B), 119 Stat. 2743. Also, provisions for review of legal issues after trial cannot correct for structural defects, such as the role of the Appointing Authority, that can cast doubt on the factfinding process and the presiding judge's exercise of discretion during trial. Before military-commission defendants may obtain judicial review, furthermore, they must navigate a military review process that again raises fairness concerns. At the outset, the Appointing Authority (unless the Appointing Authority is the Secretary of Defense) performs an "administrative review" of undefined scope, ordering any "supplementary proceedings" deemed necessary. MCO No. 1, § 6(H)(3). After that the case is referred to a three-member Review Panel composed of officers selected by the Secretary of Defense. § 6(H)(4); MCI No. 9, § 4(B) (Oct. 11, 2005), available at www.defenselink.mil/news/Oct2005/d20051014MCI9.pdf. Though the Review Panel may return the case for further
These structural differences between the military commissions and courts-martial—the concentration of functions, including legal decisionmaking, in a single executive official; the less rigorous standards for composition of the tribunal; and the creation of special review procedures in place of institutions created and regulated by Congress—remove safeguards that are important to the fairness of the proceedings and the independence of the court. Congress has prescribed these guarantees for courts-martial; and no evident practical need explains the departures here. For these reasons the commission cannot be considered regularly constituted under United States law and thus does not satisfy Congress' requirement that military commissions conform to the law of war.
Apart from these structural issues, moreover, the basic procedures for the commissions deviate from procedures for courts-martial, in violation of § 836(b). As the Court explains, ante, at 614-615, 623, the MCO abandons the detailed Military Rules of Evidence, which are modeled on the Federal Rules of Evidence in conformity with § 836(a)'s requirement of presumptive compliance with district-court rules.
Instead, the order imposes just one evidentiary rule: "Evidence shall be admitted if . . . the evidence would have probative value to a reasonable person," MCO No. 1, § 6(D)(1). Although it is true some military commissions applied
The rule here could permit admission of multiple hearsay and other forms of evidence generally prohibited on grounds of unreliability. Indeed, the commission regulations specifically contemplate admission of unsworn written statements, MCO No. 1, § 6(D)(3); and they make no provision for exclusion of coerced declarations save those "established to have been made as a result of torture," MCI No. 10, § 3(A) (Mar. 24, 2006), available at www.defenselink.mil/ news/Mar2006/d20060327MCI10.pdf; cf. Military Rule Evid. 304(c)(3) (generally barring use of statements obtained "through the use of coercion, unlawful influence, or unlawful inducement"); 10 U. S. C. § 831(d) (same). Besides, even if
As the Court explains, the Government has made no demonstration of practical need for these special rules and procedures, either in this particular case or as to the military commissions in general, ante, at 622-624; nor is any such need self-evident. For all the Government's regulations and submissions reveal, it would be feasible for most, if not all, of the conventional military evidence rules and procedures to be followed.
In sum, as presently structured, Hamdan's military commission exceeds the bounds Congress has placed on the President's authority in Articles 36 and 21 of the UCMJ, 10 U. S. C. §§ 836, 821. Because Congress has prescribed these limits, Congress can change them, requiring a new analysis consistent with the Constitution and other governing laws. At this time, however, we must apply the standards Congress has provided. By those standards the military commission is deficient.
In light of the conclusion that the military commission here is unauthorized under the UCMJ, I see no need to consider several further issues addressed in the plurality opinion by JUSTICE STEVENS and the dissent by JUSTICE THOMAS.
First, I would not decide whether Common Article 3's standard—a "regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples," 6 U. S. T., at 3320 (¶ (1)(d))—necessarily
As the dissent by JUSTICE THOMAS points out, however, the regulations bar the presiding officer from admitting secret evidence if doing so would deprive the accused of a "full and fair trial." MCO No. 1, § 6(D)(5)(b); see also post, at 722-723. This fairness determination, moreover, is unambiguously subject to judicial review under the DTA. See § 1005(e)(3)(D)(i), 119 Stat. 2743 (allowing review of compliance with the "standards and procedures" in MCO No. 1). The evidentiary proceedings at Hamdan's trial have yet to commence, and it remains to be seen whether he will suffer any prejudicial exclusion.
There should be reluctance, furthermore, to reach unnecessarily the question whether, as the plurality seems to conclude, ante, at 633, Article 75 of Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions is binding law notwithstanding the earlier decision by our Government not to accede to the Protocol. For all these reasons, and without detracting from the importance of the right of presence, I would rely on other deficiencies noted here and in the opinion by the Court—deficiencies that relate to the structure and procedure of the commission and that inevitably will affect the proceedings— as the basis for finding the military commissions lack authorization
I likewise see no need to address the validity of the conspiracy charge against Hamdan—an issue addressed at length in Part V of JUSTICE STEVENS' opinion and in Part II-C of JUSTICE THOMAS' dissent. See ante, at 600-613; post, at 689-704. In light of the conclusion that the military commissions at issue are unauthorized, Congress may choose to provide further guidance in this area. Congress, not the Court, is the branch in the better position to undertake the "sensitive task of establishing a principle not inconsistent with the national interest or with international justice." Banco Nacional de Cuba v. Sabbatino, 376 U.S. 398, 428 (1964).
Finally, for the same reason, I express no view on the merits of other limitations on military commissions described as elements of the common law of war in Part V of JUSTICE STEVENS' opinion. See ante, at 595-600, 611-613; post, at 683-689 (THOMAS, J., dissenting).
With these observations I join the Court's opinion with the exception of Parts V and VI-D-iv.
JUSTICE SCALIA, with whom JUSTICE THOMAS and JUSTICE ALITO join, dissenting.
On December 30, 2005, Congress enacted the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA). It unambiguously provides that, as of that date, "no court, justice, or judge" shall have jurisdiction to consider the habeas application of a Guantanamo Bay detainee. Notwithstanding this plain directive, the Court today concludes that, on what it calls the statute's most natural reading, every "court, justice, or judge" before whom such a habeas application was pending on December 30 has jurisdiction to hear, consider, and render judgment on it. This conclusion is patently erroneous. And even if it were not, the jurisdiction supposedly retained should, in an exercise of sound equitable discretion, not be exercised.
The DTA provides: "[N]o court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba." § 1005(e)(1), 119 Stat. 2742 (internal division omitted). This provision "t[ook] effect on the date of the enactment of this Act," § 1005(h)(1), id., at 2743, which was December 30, 2005. As of that date, then, no court had jurisdiction to "hear or consider" the merits of petitioner's habeas application. This repeal of jurisdiction is simply not ambiguous as between pending and future cases. It prohibits any exercise of jurisdiction, and it became effective as to all cases last December 30. It is also perfectly clear that the phrase "no court, justice, or judge" includes this Court and its Members, and that by exercising our appellate jurisdiction in this case we are "hear[ing] or consider[ing] . . . an application for a writ of habeas corpus."
An ancient and unbroken line of authority attests that statutes ousting jurisdiction unambiguously apply to cases pending at their effective date. For example, in Bruner v. United States, 343 U.S. 112 (1952), we granted certiorari to consider whether the Tucker Act's provision denying district court jurisdiction over suits by "officers" of the United States barred a suit by an employee of the United States. After we granted certiorari, Congress amended the Tucker Act by adding suits by "`employees'" to the provision barring jurisdiction over suits by officers. Id., at 114. This statute narrowing the jurisdiction of the district courts "became effective" while the case was pending before us, ibid., and made no explicit reference to pending cases. Because the statute "did not reserve jurisdiction over pending cases," id., at 115, we held that it clearly ousted jurisdiction over them. Summarizing centuries of practice, we said: "This
This venerable rule that statutes ousting jurisdiction terminate jurisdiction in pending cases is not, as today's opinion for the Court would have it, a judge-made "presumption against jurisdiction," ante, at 576, that we have invented to resolve an ambiguity in the statutes. It is simple recognition of the reality that the plain import of a statute repealing jurisdiction is to eliminate the power to consider and render judgment—in an already pending case no less than in a case yet to be filed.
To alter this plain meaning, our cases have required an explicit reservation of pending cases in the jurisdiction-repealing statute. For example, Bruner, as mentioned, looked to whether Congress made "any reservation as to pending cases." 343 U. S., at 116-117; see also id., at 115 ("Congress made no provision for cases pending at the effective date of the Act withdrawing jurisdiction and, for this reason, Courts of Appeals ordered pending cases terminated for want of jurisdiction"). Likewise, in Hallowell v. Commons, 239 U.S. 506 (1916), Justice Holmes relied on the fact
The Court claims that I "rea[d] too much into" the Bruner line of cases, ante, at 577, n. 7, and that "the Bruner rule" has never been "an inflexible trump," ante, at 584. But the Court sorely misdescribes Bruner—as if it were a kind of early-day Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320 (1997), resolving statutory ambiguity by oblique negative inference. On the contrary, as described above, Bruner stated its holding as an unqualified "rule," which "has been adhered to consistently by this Court." 343 U. S., at 116-117. Though Bruner referred to an express saving clause elsewhere in the statute, id., at 115, n. 7, it disavowed any reliance on such oblique indicators to vary the plain meaning, quoting Ritchie at length: "`It is quite possible that this effect of the [jurisdiction-stripping statute] was not contemplated by Congress. . . . [B]ut when terms are unambiguous we may not speculate on probabilities of intention.'" 343 U. S., at 116 (quoting 5 Wall., at 544-545).
The Court also attempts to evade the Bruner line of cases by asserting that "the `presumption' [of application to pending
Though the Court resists the Bruner rule, it cannot cite a single case in the history of Anglo-American law (before
Disregarding the plain meaning of § 1005(e)(1) and the requirement of explicit exception set forth in the foregoing cases, the Court instead favors "a negative inference . . . from the exclusion of language from one statutory provision that is included in other provisions of the same statute," ante, at 578. Specifically, it appeals to the fact that § 1005(e)(2) and (e)(3) are explicitly made applicable to pending cases (by § 1005(h)(2)). A negative inference of the sort the Court relies upon might clarify the meaning of an ambiguous provision, but since the meaning of § 1005(e)(1) is entirely clear, the omitted language in that context would have been redundant.
Even if § 1005(e)(1) were at all ambiguous in its application to pending cases, the "negative inference" from § 1005(h)(2) touted by the Court would have no force. The numerous
The Court's reliance on our opinion in Lindh v. Murphy, 521 U.S. 320 (1997), is utterly misplaced. Lindh involved two provisions of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA): a set of amendments to chapter 153 of the federal habeas statute that redefined the scope of collateral review by federal habeas courts; and a provision creating a new chapter 154 in the habeas statute specially to govern federal collateral review of state capital cases. See 521 U. S., at 326-327. The latter provision explicitly rendered the new chapter 154 applicable to cases pending at the time of AEDPA's enactment; the former made no specific reference to pending cases. Id., at 327. In Lindh, we drew a negative inference from chapter 154's explicit reference to pending cases, to conclude that the chapter 153 amendments did not apply in pending cases. It was essential to our reasoning, however, that both provisions appeared to be identically difficult to classify under our retroactivity cases. First, we noted that, after Landgraf, there was reason for Congress to suppose that an explicit statement was required to render the amendments to chapter 154 applicable in pending cases, because the new chapter 154 "will have substantive as well as purely procedural effects." 521 U. S., at 327. The next step—and the critical step—in our reasoning was that Congress had identical reason to suppose that an explicit statement would be required to apply the chapter 153
Here, by contrast, there is ample reason for the different treatment. The exclusive-review provisions of the DTA, unlike both § 1005(e)(1) and the AEDPA amendments in Lindh, confer new jurisdiction (in the D. C. Circuit) where there was none before. For better or for worse, our recent cases have contrasted jurisdiction-creating provisions with jurisdiction-ousting provisions, retaining the venerable rule that the latter are not retroactive even when applied in pending cases, but strongly indicating that the former are typically retroactive. For example, we stated in Hughes Aircraft Co. v. United States ex rel. Schumer, 520 U.S. 939, 951 (1997), that a statute that "creates jurisdiction where none previously existed" is "as much subject to our presumption against retroactivity as any other." See also Republic of Austria v. Altmann, 541 U.S. 677, 695 (2004) (opinion for the Court by STEVENS, J.); id., at 722 (KENNEDY, J., dissenting). The Court gives our retroactivity jurisprudence a dazzling clarity in asserting that "subsections (e)(2) and (e)(3) `confer' jurisdiction in a manner that cannot conceivably give rise to retroactivity questions under our precedents."
The only "familiar consideration," "reasonable reliance," and "settled expectation" I am aware of pertaining to the present
Another obvious reason for the specification was to stave off any Suspension Clause problems raised by the immediately effective ouster of jurisdiction brought about by subsection (e)(1). That is to say, specification of the immediate effectiveness of subsections (e)(2) and (e)(3) (which, unlike subsection (e)(1), would not fall within the Bruner rule and would not automatically be deemed applicable in pending cases) could reasonably have been thought essential to be sure of replacing the habeas jurisdiction that subsection (e)(1) eliminated in pending cases with an adequate substitute. See infra, at 670-672.
These considerations by no means prove that an explicit statement would be required to render subsections (e)(2) and (e)(3) applicable in pending cases. But they surely gave Congress ample reason to doubt that their application in pending cases would unfold as naturally as the Court glibly assumes. In any event, even if it were true that subsections (e)(2) and (e)(3) "`confer' jurisdiction in a manner that cannot conceivably give rise to retroactivity questions," ante, at 582, this would merely establish that subsection (h)(2)'s reference to pending cases was wholly superfluous when applied to subsections (e)(2) and (e)(3), just as it would have been for subsection (e)(1). Lindh's negative inference makes sense only when Congress would have perceived "the wisdom of being explicit" with respect to the immediate application of both of two statutory provisions, 521 U. S., at 328, but chose to be explicit only for one of them—not when it would have perceived no need to be explicit for both, but enacted a redundancy only for one.
Worst of all is the Court's reliance on the legislative history of the DTA to buttress its implausible reading of § 1005(e)(1). We have repeatedly held that such reliance is impermissible where, as here, the statutory language is unambiguous. But the Court nevertheless relies both on floor statements from the Senate and (quite heavily) on the drafting history of the DTA. To begin with floor statements: The Court urges that some "statements made by Senators preceding passage of the Act lend further support to" the Court's interpretation, citing excerpts from the floor debate that support its view, ante, at 580, n. 10. The Court immediately goes on to discount numerous floor statements by the DTA's sponsors that flatly contradict its view, because "those statements appear to have been inserted into the Congressional Record after the Senate debate." Ibid. Of course this observation, even if true, makes no difference
With regard to the floor statements, at least the Court shows some semblance of seemly shame, tucking away its
A final but powerful indication of the fact that the Court has made a mess of this statute is the nature of the consequences that ensue. Though this case concerns a habeas application challenging a trial by military commission, DTA § 1005(e)(1) strips the courts of jurisdiction to hear or consider any "application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba." The vast majority of pending petitions, no doubt, do not relate to military commissions at all, but to more commonly challenged aspects of "detention" such as the terms and conditions of confinement. See Rasul v. Bush, 542 U.S. 466, 498 (2004) (SCALIA, J., dissenting). The Solicitor General represents that "[h]abeas petitions have been filed on behalf of a purported 600 [Guantanamo Bay] detainees," including one that "seek[s] relief on behalf of every Guantanamo detainee who has not already filed an action," Respondents' Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction 20, n. 10 (hereinafter Motion to Dismiss). The Court's interpretation transforms a provision abolishing jurisdiction over all Guantanamo-related habeas petitions into a provision that retains jurisdiction over cases sufficiently numerous to keep the courts busy for years to come.
Because I would hold that § 1005(e)(1) unambiguously terminates the jurisdiction of all courts to "hear or consider" pending habeas applications, I must confront petitioner's arguments that the provision, so interpreted, violates the Suspension Clause. This claim is easily dispatched. We stated in Johnson v. Eisentrager, 339 U.S. 763, 768 (1950):
Notwithstanding the ill-considered dicta in the Court's opinion in Rasul, 542 U. S., at 480-481, it is clear that Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is outside the sovereign "territorial jurisdiction" of the United States. See id., at 500-505 (SCALIA, J., dissenting). Petitioner, an enemy alien detained abroad, has no rights under the Suspension Clause.
But even if petitioner were fully protected by the Clause, the DTA would create no suspension problem. This Court has repeatedly acknowledged that "the substitution of a collateral remedy which is neither inadequate nor ineffective to test the legality of a person's detention does not constitute a suspension of the writ of habeas corpus." Swain v. Pressley, 430 U.S. 372, 381 (1977); see also INS v. St. Cyr, 533 U.S. 289, 314, n. 38 (2001) ("Congress could, without raising any constitutional questions, provide an adequate substitute through the courts of appeals").
Petitioner has made no showing that the postdecision exclusive review by the D. C. Circuit provided in § 1005(e)(3) is inadequate to test the legality of his trial by military commission. His principal argument is that the exclusive-review provisions are inadequate because they foreclose review of the claims he raises here. Though petitioner's brief does not parse the statutory language, his argument evidently rests on an erroneously narrow reading of DTA § 1005(e)(3)(D)(ii), 119 Stat. 2743. That provision grants the D. C. Circuit authority to review, "to the extent the Constitution and laws of the United States are applicable, whether the use of such standards and procedures to reach the final decision is consistent with the Constitution and laws of the United States." In the quoted text, the phrase "such standards and procedures" refers to "the standards and procedures specified in the military order referred to in subparagraph (A)," namely, "Military Commission Order No. 1, dated August 31, 2005 (or any successor military order)." DTA
Even if Congress had not clearly and constitutionally eliminated jurisdiction over this case, neither this Court nor the lower courts ought to exercise it. Traditionally, equitable principles govern both the exercise of habeas jurisdiction and the granting of the injunctive relief sought by petitioner. See Schlesinger v. Councilman, 420 U.S. 738, 754 (1975);
In requesting abstention, the Government relies principally on Councilman, in which we abstained from considering a serviceman's claim that his charge for marijuana possession was not sufficiently "service-connected" to trigger the subject-matter jurisdiction of the military courts-martial. See 420 U. S., at 740, 758. Admittedly, Councilman does not squarely control petitioner's case, but it provides the closest analogue in our jurisprudence. As the Court describes, ante, at 586, Councilman "identifie[d] two considerations of comity that together favor[ed] abstention pending completion of ongoing court-martial proceedings against service personnel." But the Court errs in finding these considerations inapplicable to this case. Both of them, and a third consideration not emphasized in Councilman, all cut in favor of abstention here.
First, the Court observes that Councilman rested in part on the fact that "military discipline and, therefore, the efficient operation of the Armed Forces are best served if the military justice system acts without regular interference from civilian courts," and concludes that "Hamdan is not a member of our Nation's Armed Forces, so concerns about military discipline do not apply." Ante, at 586, 587. This is true enough. But for some reason, the Court fails to make any inquiry into whether military commission trials might involve other "military necessities" or "unique military exigencies," 420 U. S., at 757, comparable in gravity to those at stake in Councilman. To put this in context: The charge against the respondent in Councilman was the off-base possession and sale of marijuana while he was stationed in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, see id., at 739-740. The charge against the petitioner here is joining and actively abetting the murderous conspiracy that slaughtered thousands of innocent American
The reason for the Court's "blinkered study" of this question, ante, at 584, is not hard to fathom. The principal opinion on the merits makes clear that it does not believe that the trials by military commission involve any "military necessity" at all: "The charge's shortcomings . . . are indicative of a broader inability on the Executive's part here to satisfy the most basic precondition . . . for establishment of military commissions: military necessity." Ante, at 612. This is quite at odds with the views on this subject expressed by our political branches. Because of "military necessity," a joint session of Congress authorized the President to "use all necessary and appropriate force," including military commissions, "against those nations, organizations, or persons [such as petitioner] he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001." Authorization for Use of Military Force, § 2(a), 115 Stat. 224, note following 50 U. S. C. § 1541 (2000 ed., Supp. III). In keeping with this authority, the President has determined that "[t]o protect the United States and its citizens, and for the effective conduct of military operations and prevention of terrorist attacks, it is necessary for individuals subject to this order . . . to be detained, and, when tried, to be tried for violations of the laws of war and other applicable laws by military tribunals." Military Order of Nov. 13, 2001, 3 CFR, 2001 Comp., § 1(e), p. 918 (2002) (hereinafter Military Order). It is not clear where the Court derives the authority—or the audacity—to contradict this determination. If "military necessities" relating to "duty" and "discipline" required abstention in Councilman, supra, at 757, military necessities relating to the disabling, deterrence, and punishment
The Court further seeks to distinguish Councilman on the ground that "the tribunal convened to try Hamdan is not part of the integrated system of military courts, complete with independent review panels, that Congress has established." Ante, at 587. To be sure, Councilman emphasized that "Congress created an integrated system of military courts and review procedures, a critical element of which is the Court of Military Appeals consisting of civilian judges completely removed from all military influence or persuasion, who would gain over time thorough familiarity with military problems." 420 U. S., at 758 (internal quotation marks and footnote omitted). The Court contrasts this "integrated system" insulated from military influence with the review scheme established by Order No. 1, which "provides that appeal of a review panel's decision may be had only to the Secretary himself, § 6(H)(5), and then, finally, to the President, § 6(H)(6)." Ante, at 587.
Even if we were to accept the Court's extraordinary assumption that the President "lack[s] the structural insulation from military influence that characterizes the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces," ante, at 587-588,
Moreover, a third consideration counsels strongly in favor of abstention in this case. Councilman reasoned that the "considerations of comity, the necessity of respect for coordinate judicial systems" that motivated our decision in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), were inapplicable to courts-martial, because "the peculiar demands of federalism are not implicated." 420 U. S., at 756, 757. Though military commissions likewise do not implicate "the peculiar demands of federalism," considerations of interbranch comity
In the face of such concerns, the Court relies heavily on Ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1 (1942): "Far from abstaining pending the conclusion of military proceedings, which were ongoing, [in Quirin] we convened a special Term to hear the case and expedited our review." Ante, at 588. It is likely that the Government in Quirin, unlike here, preferred a hasty resolution of the case in this Court, so that it could swiftly execute the sentences imposed, see Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507, 569 (2004) (SCALIA, J., dissenting). But the Court's reliance on Quirin suffers from a more fundamental defect: Once again, it ignores the DTA, which creates an avenue for the consideration of petitioner's claims that did not exist at the time of Quirin. Collateral application for habeas review was the only vehicle available. And there was no compelling reason to postpone consideration of the Quirin application until the termination of military proceedings, because the only cognizable claims presented were general
I would abstain from exercising our equity jurisdiction, as the Government requests.
* * *
For the foregoing reasons, I dissent.
JUSTICE THOMAS, with whom JUSTICE SCALIA joins, and with whom JUSTICE ALITO joins in all but Parts I, II-C-1, and III-B-2, dissenting.
For the reasons set forth in JUSTICE SCALIA's dissent, it is clear that this Court lacks jurisdiction to entertain petitioner's claims, see ante, at 655-669. The Court having concluded otherwise, it is appropriate to respond to the Court's resolution of the merits of petitioner's claims because its opinion openly flouts our well-established duty to respect the Executive's judgment in matters of military operations and foreign affairs. The plurality's evident belief that it is qualified to pass on the "military necessity," ante, at 612, of the Commander in Chief's decision to employ a particular form of force against our enemies is so antithetical to our constitutional structure that it simply cannot go unanswered. I respectfully dissent.
Our review of petitioner's claims arises in the context of the President's wartime exercise of his Commander in Chief authority in conjunction with the complete support of Congress. Accordingly, it is important to take measure of the
As I explained in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507 (2004), the structural advantages attendant to the Executive Branch—namely, the decisiveness, "`activity, secrecy, and dispatch'" that flow from the Executive's "`unity,'" id., at 581 (dissenting opinion) (quoting The Federalist No. 70, p. 472 (J. Cooke ed. 1961) (A. Hamilton))—led the Founders to conclude that the "President ha[s] primary responsibility—along with the necessary power—to protect the national security and to conduct the Nation's foreign relations." 542 U. S., at 580. Consistent with this conclusion, the Constitution vests in the President "[t]he executive Power," Art. II, § 1, provides that he "shall be Commander in Chief" of the Armed Forces, § 2, and places in him the power to recognize foreign governments, § 3. This Court has observed that these provisions confer upon the President broad constitutional authority to protect the Nation's security in the manner he deems fit. See, e. g., Prize Cases, 2 Black 635, 668 (1863) ("If a war be made by invasion of a foreign nation, the President is not only authorized but bound to resist force by force . . . without waiting for any special legislative authority"); Fleming v. Page, 9 How. 603, 615 (1850) (acknowledging that the President has the authority to "employ [the Nation's Armed Forces] in the manner he may deem most effectual to harass and conquer and subdue the enemy").
Congress, to be sure, has a substantial and essential role in both foreign affairs and national security. But "Congress cannot anticipate and legislate with regard to every possible action the President may find it necessary to take or every possible situation in which he might act," and "[s]uch failure of Congress . . . does not, `especially . . . in the areas of foreign policy and national security,' imply `congressional disapproval' of action taken by the Executive." Dames & Moore v. Regan, 453 U.S. 654, 678 (1981) (quoting Haig v. Agee, 453 U.S. 280, 291 (1981)). Rather, in these domains,
When "the President acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization from Congress," his actions are "`supported by the strongest of presumptions and the widest latitude of judicial interpretation, and the burden of persuasion . . . rest[s] heavily upon any who might attack it.'" Id., at 668 (quoting Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579, 637 (1952) (Jackson, J., concurring)). Accordingly, in the very context that we address today, this Court has concluded that "the detention and trial of petitioners—ordered by the President in the declared exercise of his powers as Commander in Chief of the Army in time of war and of grave public danger—are not to be set aside by the courts without the clear conviction that they are in conflict with the Constitution or laws of Congress constitutionally enacted." Ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1, 25 (1942).
Under this framework, the President's decision to try Hamdan before a military commission for his involvement with al Qaeda is entitled to a heavy measure of deference. In the present conflict, Congress has authorized the President "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 . . . in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons." Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), 115 Stat.
Although the Court concedes the legitimacy of the President's use of military commissions in certain circumstances, ante, at 594, it suggests that the AUMF has no bearing on the scope of the President's power to utilize military commissions in the present conflict, ibid. Instead, the Court determines the scope of this power based exclusively on Article 21 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), 10 U. S. C. § 821, the successor to Article 15 of the Articles of War, which Quirin held "authorized trial of offenses against the law of war before [military] commissions." 317 U. S., at 29. As I shall discuss below, Article 21 alone supports the use of commissions here. Nothing in the language of Article 21, however, suggests that it outlines the entire reach of congressional authorization of military commissions in all
I note the Court's error respecting the AUMF not because it is necessary to my resolution of this case—Hamdan's military commission can plainly be sustained solely under Article 21—but to emphasize the complete congressional sanction of the President's exercise of his Commander in Chief authority to conduct the present war. In such circumstances, as previously noted, our duty to defer to the Executive's military and foreign policy judgment is at its zenith; it does not countenance
It is within this framework that the lawfulness of Hamdan's commission should be examined.
The plurality accurately describes some aspects of the history of military commissions and the prerequisites for their use. Thus, I do not dispute that military commissions have historically been "used in three [different] situations," ante, at 595, and that the only situation relevant to the instant case is the use of military commissions "`to seize and subject to disciplinary measures those enemies who . . . have violated the law of war,'" ante, at 596 (quoting Quirin, supra, at 28-29). Similarly, I agree with the plurality that Winthrop's treatise sets forth the four relevant considerations for determining the scope of a military commission's jurisdiction, considerations relating to the (1) time and (2) place of the offense, (3) the status of the offender, and (4) the nature of the offense charged. Winthrop 836-840. The Executive has easily satisfied these considerations here. The plurality's contrary conclusion rests upon an incomplete accounting and an unfaithful application of those considerations.
The first two considerations are that a law-of-war military commission may only assume jurisdiction of "offences committed
Nevertheless, the plurality concludes that the legality of the charge against Hamdan is doubtful because "Hamdan is charged not with an overt act for which he was caught redhanded in a theater of war . . . but with an agreement the inception of which long predated . . . the [relevant armed conflict]." Ante, at 612 (emphasis in original). The plurality's willingness to second-guess the Executive's judgments in this context, based upon little more than its unsupported assertions, constitutes an unprecedented departure from the traditionally limited role of the courts with respect to war and an unwarranted intrusion on executive authority. And
As an initial matter, the plurality relies upon the date of the AUMF's enactment to determine the beginning point for the "period of the war," Winthrop 836-837, thereby suggesting that petitioner's commission does not have jurisdiction to try him for offenses committed prior to the AUMF's enactment. Ante, at 598-600, 612. But this suggestion betrays the plurality's unfamiliarity with the realities of warfare and its willful blindness to our precedents. The starting point of the present conflict (or indeed any conflict) is not determined by congressional enactment, but rather by the initiation of hostilities. See Prize Cases, supra, at 668 (recognizing that war may be initiated by "invasion of a foreign nation," and that such initiation, and the President's response, usually precedes congressional action). Thus, Congress' enactment of the AUMF did not mark the beginning of this Nation's conflict with al Qaeda, but instead authorized the President to use force in the midst of an ongoing conflict. Moreover, while the President's "war powers" may not have been activated until the AUMF was passed, ante, at 599, n. 31 (emphasis deleted), the date of such activation has never been used to determine the scope of a military commission's jurisdiction.
The third consideration identified by Winthrop's treatise for the exercise of military commission jurisdiction pertains to the persons triable before such a commission, see ante, at 597-598; Winthrop 838. Law-of-war military commissions have jurisdiction over "`[i]ndividuals of the enemy's army who have been guilty of illegitimate warfare or other offences in violation of the laws of war,'" ante, at 598 (quoting Winthrop 838). They also have jurisdiction over "[i]rregular armed bodies or persons not forming part of the organized forces of a belligerent" "who would not be likely to respect the laws of war." Id., at 783, 784. Indeed, according to Winthrop, such persons are not "within the protection of the laws of war" and were "liable to be shot, imprisoned, or banished, either summarily where their guilt was clear or
The fourth consideration relevant to the jurisdiction of law-of-war military commissions relates to the nature of the offense charged. As relevant here, such commissions have jurisdiction to try "`[v]iolations of the laws and usages of war cognizable by military tribunals only,'" ante, at 598 (quoting Winthrop 839). In contrast to the preceding considerations, this Court's precedents establish that judicial review of "whether any of the acts charged is an offense against the law of war cognizable before a military tribunal" is appropriate. Quirin, 317 U. S., at 29. However, "charges of violations of the law of war triable before a military tribunal need not be stated with the precision of a common law indictment." Yamashita, 327 U. S., at 17. And whether an offense is a violation of the law of war cognizable before a military commission must be determined pursuant to "the system of common law applied by military tribunals." Quirin, supra, at 30; Yamashita, supra, at 8.
The common law of war as it pertains to offenses triable by military commission is derived from the "experience of our wars" and our wartime tribunals, Winthrop 839, and "the laws and usages of war as understood and practiced by the civilized nations of the world," 11 Op. Atty. Gen. 297, 310 (1865). Moreover, the common law of war is marked by two important features. First, as with the common law generally, it is flexible and evolutionary in nature, building upon the experience of the past and taking account of the exigencies of the present. Thus, "[t]he law of war, like every other code of laws, declares what shall not be done, and does not say what may be done. The legitimate use of the great
In one key respect, the plurality departs from the proper framework for evaluating the adequacy of the charge against Hamdan under the laws of war. The plurality holds that where, as here, "neither the elements of the offense nor the range of permissible punishments is defined by statute or treaty, the precedent [establishing whether an offense is triable by military commission] must be plain and unambiguous." Ante, at 602. This is a pure contrivance, and a bad one at that. It is contrary to the presumption we acknowledged in Quirin, namely, that the actions of military commissions are "not to be set aside by the courts without the clear conviction that they are" unlawful, 317 U. S., at 25 (emphasis added). It is also contrary to Yamashita, which recognized the legitimacy of that military commission notwithstanding a substantial disagreement pertaining to whether Yamashita had been charged with a violation of the law of war. Compare 327 U. S., at 17 (noting that the allegations were "adequat[e]"
The plurality's newly minted clear-statement rule is also fundamentally inconsistent with the nature of the common law which, by definition, evolves and develops over time and does not, in all cases, "say what may be done." 11 Op. Atty. Gen., at 300. Similarly, it is inconsistent with the nature of warfare, which also evolves and changes over time, and for which a flexible, evolutionary common-law system is uniquely appropriate.
Under either the correct, flexible approach to evaluating the adequacy of Hamdan's charge, or under the plurality's new, clear-statement approach, Hamdan has been charged with conduct constituting two distinct violations of the law of war cognizable before a military commission: membership in a war-criminal enterprise and conspiracy to commit war crimes. The charging section of the indictment alleges both that Hamdan "willfully and knowingly joined an enterprise of persons who shared a common criminal purpose," App. to Pet. for Cert. 65a, and that he "conspired and agreed with [al Qaeda] to commit . . . offenses triable by military commission," ibid.
For well over a century it has been established that "to unite with banditti, jayhawkers, guerillas, or any other unauthorized marauders is a high offence against the laws of war; the offence is complete when the band is organized or joined. The atrocities committed by such a band do not constitute the offence, but make the reasons, and sufficient reasons they are, why such banditti are denounced by the laws of
The conclusion that membership in an organization whose purpose is to violate the laws of war is an offense triable by military commission is confirmed by the experience of the
Moreover, the Government has alleged that Hamdan was not only a member of al Qaeda while it was carrying out terrorist attacks on civilian targets in the United States and abroad, but also that Hamdan aided and assisted al Qaeda's top leadership by supplying weapons, transportation, and other services. App. to Pet. for Cert. 65a-67a. These allegations
Separate and apart from the offense of joining a contingent of "uncivilized combatants who [are] not . . . likely to respect the laws of war," Winthrop 784, Hamdan has been charged with "conspir[ing] and agree[ing] with . . . the al Qaida organization . . . to commit . . . offenses triable by military commission," App. to Pet. for Cert. 65a. Those offenses include "attacking civilians; attacking civilian objects; murder by an unprivileged belligerent; and terrorism." Ibid. This,
"[T]he experience of our wars," Winthrop 839, is rife with evidence that establishes beyond any doubt that conspiracy to violate the laws of war is itself an offense cognizable before a law-of-war military commission. World War II provides the most recent examples of the use of American military commissions to try offenses pertaining to violations of the laws of war. In that conflict, the orders establishing the jurisdiction of military commissions in various theaters of operation provided that conspiracy to violate the laws of war was a cognizable offense. See Letter, General Headquarters, United States Army Forces, Pacific (Sept. 24, 1945), Record in Yamashita v. Styer, O. T. 1945, No. 672, pp. 14, 16 (Exh. F) (Order respecting the "Regulations Governing the Trial of War Criminals" provided that "participation in a common plan or conspiracy to accomplish" various offenses against the law of war was cognizable before military commissions); 1 U. N. War Crimes Commission, Law Reports of Trials of War Criminals 114-115 (1947) (reprint 1997) (hereinafter U. N. Commission) (recounting that the orders establishing World War II military commissions in the Pacific and China included "participation in a common plan or conspiracy" pertaining to certain violations of the laws of war as an offense triable by military commission). Indeed, those orders authorized trial by military commission of participation in a conspiracy to commit "`murder . . . or other inhumane acts . . . against any civilian population,'" id., at 114, which is precisely the offense Hamdan has been charged with here. And conspiracy to violate the laws of war was charged in the highest profile case tried before a World War II military commission, see Quirin, 317 U. S., at 23, and on numerous other occasions. See, e. g., Colepaugh v. Looney, 235 F.2d 429, 431 (CA10 1956); Green 848 (describing the conspiracy trial of Julius Otto Kuehn).
The Civil War experience provides further support for the President's conclusion that conspiracy to violate the laws of war is an offense cognizable before law-of-war military commissions. Indeed, in the highest profile case to be tried before a military commission relating to that war, namely, the trial of the men involved in the assassination of President Lincoln, the charge provided that those men had "combin[ed], confederat[ed], and conspir[ed] . . . to kill and murder" President Lincoln. G. C. M. O. No. 356 (1865), reprinted in H. R. Doc. No. 314, 55th Cong., 3d Sess., 696 (1899) (hereinafter G. C. M. O. No. 356).
In any event, the plurality's effort to avoid the import of Winthrop's footnote through the smokescreen of its "compound offense" theory, ante, at 607-608, cannot be reconciled with the particular charges that sustained military commission jurisdiction in the cases that Winthrop cites. For example,
Likewise, in the military commission trial of Leger Grenfel, Charge I accused Grenfel of "[c]onspiring, in violation of the laws of war, to release rebel prisoners of war confined by authority of the United States at Camp Douglas, near Chicago, Ill." G. C. M. O. No. 452 (1865), reprinted in H. R. Doc. No. 314, at 724 (emphasis added);
Ultimately, the plurality's determination that Hamdan has not been charged with an offense triable before a military commission rests not upon any historical example or authority, but upon the plurality's raw judgment of the "inability on the Executive's part here to satisfy the most basic precondition . . . for establishment of military commissions: military necessity." Ante, at 612. This judgment starkly confirms that the plurality has appointed itself the ultimate arbiter of what is quintessentially a policy and military judgment, namely, the appropriate military measures to take against those who "aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001." AUMF § 2(a), 115 Stat. 224. The plurality's suggestion that Hamdan's commission is illegitimate because it is not dispensing swift justice on the battlefield is unsupportable. Ante, at 607. Even a cursory review of the authorities confirms that law-of-war military commissions have wide-ranging jurisdiction to try offenses against the law of war in exigent and nonexigent circumstances alike. See, e. g., Winthrop 839-840; see also Yamashita, 327 U. S., at 5 (military commission trial after the cessation
Today a plurality of this Court would hold that conspiracy to massacre innocent civilians does not violate the laws of war. This determination is unsustainable. The judgment of the political branches that Hamdan, and others like him, must be held accountable before military commissions for their involvement with and membership in an unlawful organization dedicated to inflicting massive civilian casualties is supported by virtually every relevant authority, including all of the authorities invoked by the plurality today. It is also supported by the nature of the present conflict. We are not engaged in a traditional battle with a nation-state, but with a worldwide, hydra-headed enemy, who lurks in the shadows conspiring to reproduce the atrocities of September 11, 2001, and who has boasted of sending suicide bombers into civilian gatherings, has proudly distributed videotapes of beheadings of civilian workers, and has tortured and dismembered captured American soldiers. But according to the plurality, when our Armed Forces capture those who are plotting terrorist atrocities like the bombing of the Khobar Towers, the bombing of the U. S. S. Cole, and the attacks of September 11—even if their plots are advanced to the very brink of fulfillment—our military cannot charge those criminals with any offense against the laws of war. Instead, our troops must catch the terrorists "redhanded," ante, at 612, in the midst of the attack itself, in order to bring them to justice. Not only is this conclusion fundamentally inconsistent with the cardinal principle of the law of war, namely, protecting noncombatants, but it would sorely hamper the President's ability to confront and defeat a new and deadly enemy.
The Court holds that even if "the Government has charged Hamdan with an offense against the law of war cognizable by military commission, the commission lacks power to proceed" because of its failure to comply with the terms of the UCMJ and the four Geneva Conventions signed in 1949. Ante, at 613. This position is untenable.
As with the jurisdiction of military commissions, the procedure of such commissions "has [not] been prescribed by statute," but "has been adapted in each instance to the need that called it forth." Madsen, 343 U. S., at 347-348. Indeed, this Court has concluded that "[i]n the absence of attempts by Congress to limit the President's power, it appears that, as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, he may, in time of war, establish and prescribe
Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Court concludes that Article 36(b) of the UCMJ, 10 U. S. C. § 836(b), which provides that "[a]ll rules and regulations made under this article shall be uniform insofar as practicable," ante, at 620, requires the President to employ the same rules and procedures in military commissions as are employed by courts-martial "`insofar as practicable,'" ante, at 622. The Court further concludes that Hamdan's commission is unlawful because the President has not explained why it is not practicable to apply the same rules and procedures to Hamdan's commission as would be applied in a trial by court-martial. Ante, at 623-624.
In Yamashita, this Court concluded that Article 15 of the Articles of War preserved the President's unfettered authority to prescribe military commission procedure. The Court explained, "[b]y thus recognizing military commissions in order to preserve their traditional jurisdiction over enemy combatants unimpaired by the Articles, Congress gave sanction . . . to any use of the military commission contemplated by the common law of war." 327 U. S., at 20 (emphasis added);
Given these precedents, the Court's conclusion that Article 36(b) requires the President to apply the same rules and procedures to military commissions as are applicable to courts-martial is unsustainable. When Congress codified Article 15 of the Articles of War in Article 21 of the UCMJ it was "presumed to be aware of . . . and to adopt" this Court's interpretation of that provision as preserving the common-law status of military commissions, inclusive of the President's unfettered authority to prescribe their procedures. Lorillard v. Pons, 434 U.S. 575, 580 (1978). The Court's conclusion that Article 36(b) repudiates this settled meaning of Article 21 is not based upon a specific textual reference to military commissions, but rather on a one-sentence subsection providing that "[a]ll rules and regulations made under this article shall be uniform insofar as practicable." 10 U. S. C. § 836(b). This is little more than an impermissible repeal by implication.
Nothing in the text of Article 36(b) supports the Court's sweeping conclusion that it represents an unprecedented congressional effort to change the nature of military commissions from common-law war courts to tribunals that must presumptively function like courts-martial. And such an interpretation would be strange indeed. The vision of uniformity that motivated the adoption of the UCMJ, embodied specifically in Article 36(b), is nothing more than uniformity across the separate branches of the armed services. See Act of May 5, 1950, ch. 169, 64 Stat. 107 (preamble to the UCMJ explaining that the UCMJ is an Act "[t]o unify, consolidate, revise, and codify the Articles of War, the Articles for the Government of the Navy, and the disciplinary laws of the Coast Guard"). There is no indication that the UCMJ was intended to require uniformity in procedure between courts-martial and military commissions, tribunals that the UCMJ itself recognizes are different. To the contrary, the UCMJ expressly recognizes that different tribunals will be constituted in different manners and employ different procedures. See 10 U. S. C. § 866 (providing for three different types of courts-martial—general, special, and summary—constituted in different manners and employing different procedures). Thus, Article 36(b) is best understood as establishing that, so far as practicable, the rules and regulations governing tribunals convened by the Navy must be uniform with the rules and regulations governing tribunals convened by the Army. But, consistent with this Court's prior interpretations
Even if Article 36(b) could be construed to require procedural uniformity among the various tribunals contemplated by the UCMJ, Hamdan would not be entitled to relief. Under the Court's reading, the President is entitled to prescribe different rules for military commissions than for courts-martial when he determines that it is not "practicable" to prescribe uniform rules. The Court does not resolve the level of deference such determinations would be owed, however, because, in its view, "[t]he President has not . . . [determined] that it is impracticable to apply the rules for courts-martial." Ante, at 623. This is simply not the case. On the same day that the President issued Military Commission Order No. 1, the Secretary of Defense explained that "the president decided to establish military commissions because he wanted the option of a process that is different from those processes which we already have, namely, the federal court system . . . and the military court system," Dept. of
The Court provides no explanation why the President's determination that employing court-martial procedures in the military commissions established pursuant to Military Commission Order No. 1 would hamper our war effort is in any way inadequate to satisfy its newly minted "practicability" requirement. On the contrary, this determination is precisely the kind for which the "Judiciary has neither aptitude, facilities nor responsibility and which has long been held to belong in the domain of political power not subject to judicial
The Court further contends that Hamdan's commission is unlawful because it fails to provide him the right to be present at his trial, as recognized in 10 U. S. C. § 839(c) (2000 ed., Supp. V). Ante, at 624. But § 839(c) applies to courts-martial, not military commissions. It provides:
In context, "all other proceedings" plainly refers exclusively to "other proceedings" pertaining to a court-martial.
The Court contends that Hamdan's military commission is also unlawful because it violates Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, see ante, at 629-635. Furthermore, Hamdan contends that his commission is unlawful because it violates various provisions of the Third Geneva Convention. These contentions are untenable.
As an initial matter, and as the Court of Appeals concluded, both of Hamdan's Geneva Convention claims are foreclosed by Johnson v. Eisentrager, 339 U.S. 763 (1950). In that case the respondents claimed, inter alia, that their military commission lacked jurisdiction because it failed to provide them with certain procedural safeguards that they argued were required under the Geneva Conventions. Id., at 789-790. While this Court rejected the underlying merits of the respondents' Geneva Convention claims, id., at 790, it also held, in the alternative, that the respondents could "not assert . . . that anything in the Geneva Convention makes them immune from prosecution or punishment for war crimes," id., at 789. The Court explained:
This alternative holding is no less binding than if it were the exclusive basis for the Court's decision. See Massachusetts v. United States, 333 U.S. 611, 623 (1948). While the Court attempts to cast Eisentrager's unqualified, alternative holding as footnote dictum, ante, at 627, it does not dispute the correctness of its conclusion, namely, that the provisions of the 1929 Geneva Convention were not judicially enforceable because that Convention contemplated that diplomatic measures by political and military authorities were the exclusive mechanisms for such enforcement. Nor does the Court suggest that the 1949 Geneva Conventions departed from this framework. See ibid. ("We may assume that `the obvious scheme' of the 1949 Conventions is identical in all relevant respects to that of the 1929 Convention").
Instead, the Court concludes that petitioner may seek judicial enforcement of the provisions of the Geneva Conventions because "they are . . . part of the law of war. And compliance with the law of war is the condition upon which the authority set forth in Article 21 is granted." Ante, at 628 (citation omitted). But Article 21 authorizes the use of military commissions; it does not purport to render judicially enforceable aspects of the law of war that are not so enforceable of their own accord. See Quirin, 317 U. S., at 28 (by enacting Article 21, "Congress has explicitly provided, so far as it may constitutionally do so, that military tribunals shall have jurisdiction to try offenders or offenses against the law of war"). The Court cannot escape Eisentrager's holding
In any event, the Court's argument is too clever by half. The judicial nonenforceability of the Geneva Conventions derives from the fact that those Conventions have exclusive enforcement mechanisms, see Eisentrager, supra, at 789, n. 14, and this, too, is part of the law of war. The Court's position thus rests on the assumption that Article 21's reference to the "laws of war" selectively incorporates only those aspects of the Geneva Conventions that the Court finds convenient, namely, the substantive requirements of Common Article 3, and not those aspects of the Conventions that the Court, for whatever reason, disfavors, namely, the Conventions' exclusive diplomatic enforcement scheme. The Court provides no account of why the partial incorporation of the Geneva Conventions should extend only so far—and no further—because none is available beyond its evident preference to adjudicate those matters that the law of war, through the Geneva Conventions, consigns exclusively to the political branches.
Even if the Court were correct that Article 21 of the UCMJ renders judicially enforceable aspects of the law of war that are not so enforceable by their own terms, Article 21 simply cannot be interpreted to render judicially enforceable the particular provision of the law of war at issue here, namely, Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. As relevant, Article 21 provides that "[t]he provisions of this chapter conferring jurisdiction upon courts-martial do not deprive military commissions . . . of concurrent jurisdiction with respect to offenders or offenses that by statute or by
In addition to being foreclosed by Eisentrager, Hamdan's claim under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions is meritless. Common Article 3 applies to "armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties." 6 U. S. T., at 3318. "Pursuant to [his] authority as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive of the United States," the President has "accept[ed] the legal conclusion of the Department of Justice . . . that common Article 3 of Geneva does not apply to . . . al Qaeda . . . detainees, because, among other reasons, the relevant conflicts are international in scope and common Article 3 applies only to `armed conflict not of an international character.'" App. 35. Under this Court's precedents, "the meaning attributed to treaty provisions by the Government agencies charged with their negotiation and enforcement is entitled to great weight." Sumitomo Shoji America, Inc. v. Avagliano, 457 U.S. 176, 184-185 (1982); United States v. Stuart, 489 U.S. 353, 369 (1989). Our duty to defer to the
The President's interpretation of Common Article 3 is reasonable and should be sustained. The conflict with al Qaeda is international in character in the sense that it is occurring in various nations around the globe. Thus, it is also "occurring in the territory of" more than "one of the High Contracting Parties." The Court does not dispute the President's judgments respecting the nature of our conflict with al Qaeda, nor does it suggest that the President's interpretation of Common Article 3 is implausible or foreclosed by the text of the treaty. Indeed, the Court concedes that Common Article 3 is principally concerned with "furnish[ing] minimal protection to rebels involved in . . . a civil war," ante, at 631, precisely the type of conflict the President's interpretation envisions to be subject to Common Article 3. Instead, the Court, without acknowledging its duty to defer to the President, adopts its own, admittedly plausible, reading of Common Article 3. But where, as here, an ambiguous treaty provision ("not of an international character") is susceptible of two plausible, and reasonable, interpretations, our precedents require us to defer to the Executive's interpretation.
But even if Common Article 3 were judicially enforceable and applicable to the present conflict, petitioner would not be entitled to relief. As an initial matter, any claim petitioner has under Common Article 3 is not ripe. The only relevant "acts" that "are and shall remain prohibited" under Common Article 3 are "the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced
In any event, Hamdan's military commission complies with the requirements of Common Article 3. It is plainly "regularly constituted" because such commissions have been employed throughout our history to try unlawful combatants for crimes against the law of war. This Court has recounted that history as follows:
Hamdan's commission has been constituted in accordance with these historical precedents. As I have previously explained, the procedures to be employed by that commission, and the Executive's authority to alter those procedures, are consistent with the practice of previous American military commissions. See supra, at 706-712, and n. 15.
The Court concludes Hamdan's commission fails to satisfy the requirements of Common Article 3 not because it differs from the practice of previous military commissions but because it "deviate[s] from [the procedures] governing courts-martial." Ante, at 634. But there is neither a statutory nor historical requirement that military commissions conform to the structure and practice of courts-martial. A military commission is a different tribunal, serving a different function, and thus operates pursuant to different procedures. The 150-year pedigree of the military commission is itself sufficient to establish that such tribunals are "regularly constituted court[s]." Art. 3, ¶ 1(d), 6 U. S. T., at 3320.
Similarly, the procedures to be employed by Hamdan's commission afford "all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples." Neither the Court nor petitioner disputes the Government's description of those procedures.
Notwithstanding these provisions, which in my judgment easily satisfy the nebulous standards of Common Article 3,
Moreover, while the Executive is surely not required to offer a particularized defense of these procedures prior to their application, the procedures themselves make clear that Hamdan would only be excluded (other than for disruption) if it were necessary to protect classified (or classifiable) intelligence, Dept. of Defense, Military Commission Order No. 1, § 6(B)(3) (Aug. 31, 2005), including the sources and methods for gathering such intelligence. The Government has explained that "we want to make sure that these proceedings, which are going on in the middle of the war, do not interfere with our war effort and . . . because of the way we would be able to handle interrogations and intelligence information, may actually assist us in promoting our war aims." News Briefing (remarks of Douglas J. Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy). And this Court has concluded, in the very context of a threat to reveal our Nation's intelligence gathering sources and methods, that "[i]t is `obvious and unarguable' that no governmental interest is more compelling than the security of the Nation," Haig, 453 U. S., at 307 (quoting Aptheker v. Secretary of State, 378 U.S. 500, 509 (1964)), and that "[m]easures to protect the secrecy of our Government's foreign intelligence operations plainly serve these interests," Haig, supra, at 307. See also Snepp v. United States, 444 U.S. 507, 509, n. 3 (1980) (per curiam) ("The Government has a compelling interest in protecting both the secrecy of information important to our national security and the appearance of confidentiality so essential to the effective operation of our foreign intelligence service"); Curtiss-Wright, 299 U. S., at 320. This interest is surely compelling here. According to the Government, "[b]ecause al Qaeda operates as a clandestine force relying on sleeper agents to mount surprise attacks, one of the most critical fronts in the current war involves gathering intelligence about future terrorist attacks and how the terrorist network
In these circumstances, "civilized peoples" would take into account the context of military commission trials against unlawful combatants in the war on terrorism, including the need to keep certain information secret in the interest of preventing future attacks on our Nation and its foreign installations so long as it did not deprive the accused of a fair trial. Accordingly, the President's understanding of the requirements of Common Article 3 is entitled to "great weight." See supra, at 718.
In addition to Common Article 3, which applies to conflicts "not of an international character," Hamdan also claims that he is entitled to the protections of the Third Geneva Convention, which applies to conflicts between two or more High Contracting Parties. There is no merit to Hamdan's claim.
Article 2 of the Convention provides that "the present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties." 6 U. S. T., at 3318. "Pursuant to [his] authority as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive of the United States," the President has determined that the Convention is inapplicable here, explaining that "none of the provisions of Geneva apply to our conflict with al Qaeda in Afghanistan or elsewhere throughout the world because, among other reasons, al Qaeda is not a High Contracting Party." App. 35. The President's findings about the nature of the present conflict with respect to members of al Qaeda operating in Afghanistan represents a core
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For these reasons, I would affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
JUSTICE ALITO, with whom JUSTICE SCALIA and JUSTICE THOMAS join in Parts I—III, dissenting.
For the reasons set out in JUSTICE SCALIA's dissent, which I join, I would hold that we lack jurisdiction. On the merits, I join JUSTICE THOMAS' dissent with the exception of Parts I, II-C-1, and III-B-2, which concern matters that I find unnecessary to reach. I add the following comments to provide a further explanation of my reasons for disagreeing with the holding of the Court.
The holding of the Court, as I understand it, rests on the following reasoning. A military commission is lawful only if it is authorized by 10 U. S. C. § 821; this provision permits the use of a commission to try "offenders or offenses" that "by statute or by the law of war may be tried by" such a commission; because no statute provides that an offender such as petitioner or an offense such as the one with which he is charged may be tried by a military commission, he may be tried by military commission only if the trial is authorized by "the law of war"; the Geneva Conventions are part of the law of war; and Common Article 3 of the Conventions prohibits petitioner's trial because the commission before which he would be tried is not "a regularly constituted court," Third Geneva Convention, Art. 3, ¶ 1(d), Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Aug. 12, 1949,  6 U. S. T. 3316, 3320, T. I. A. S. No. 3364. I disagree with this holding because petitioner's commission is "a regularly constituted court."
Common Article 3 thus imposes three requirements. Sentences may be imposed only by (1) a "court" (2) that is "regularly constituted" and (3) that affords "all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples." Id., at 3320.
I see no need here to comment extensively on the meaning of the first and third requirements. The first requirement is largely self-explanatory, and, with respect to the third, I note only that on its face it imposes a uniform international standard that does not vary from signatory to signatory.
The second element ("regularly constituted") is the one on which the Court relies, and I interpret this element to require that the court be appointed or established in accordance with the appointing country's domestic law. I agree with the Court, see ante, at 632, n. 64, that, as used in Common Article 3, the term "regularly" is synonymous with "properly." The term "constitute" means "appoint," "set up," or "establish," Webster's Third New International Dictionary 486 (1961), and therefore "regularly constituted" means properly appointed, set up, or established. Our cases repeatedly use the phrases "regularly constituted" and "properly constituted" in this sense. See, e. g., Hamdi v.
In order to determine whether a court has been properly appointed, set up, or established, it is necessary to refer to a body of law that governs such matters. I interpret Common Article 3 as looking to the domestic law of the appointing country because I am not aware of any international law standard regarding the way in which such a court must be appointed, set up, or established, and because different countries with different government structures handle this matter differently. Accordingly, "a regularly constituted court" is a court that has been appointed, set up, or established in accordance with the domestic law of the appointing country.
In contrast to this interpretation, the opinions supporting the judgment today hold that the military commission before which petitioner would be tried is not "a regularly constituted court" (1) because "no evident practical need explains" why its "structure and composition . . . deviate from conventional court-martial standards," ante, at 647 (KENNEDY, J., concurring in part); see also ante, at 632-633 (opinion of the Court); and (2) because, contrary to 10 U. S. C. § 836(b), the procedures specified for use in the proceeding before the military commission impermissibly differ from those provided under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) for use by courts-martial, ante, at 615-625 (opinion of the Court); ante, at 651-653 (KENNEDY, J., concurring in part). I do not believe that either of these grounds is sound.
I see no basis for the Court's holding that a military commission cannot be regarded as "a regularly constituted court" unless it is similar in structure and composition to a
If Common Article 3 had been meant to require trial before a country's military courts or courts that are similar in structure and composition, the drafters almost certainly would have used language that expresses that thought more directly. Other provisions of the Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War refer expressly to the ordinary military courts and expressly prescribe the "uniformity principle" that JUSTICE KENNEDY sees in Common Article 3, see ante, at 643-644. Article 84 provides that "[a] prisoner of war shall be tried only by a military court, unless the existing laws of the Detaining Power expressly permit the civil courts to try a member of the armed forces of the Detaining Power in respect of the particular offence alleged to have been committed by the prisoner of war." 6 U. S. T., at 3382. Article 87 states that "[p]risoners of war may not be sentenced by the military authorities and courts of the Detaining Power to any penalties except those provided for in respect of members of the armed forces of the said Power who have committed the same acts." Id., at 3384. Similarly, Article 66 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War—a provision to which the Court looks for guidance in interpreting Common Article 3, see ante, at 632—expressly provides that civilians
Contrary to the suggestion of the Court, see ante, at 632, the commentary on Article 66 of the Fourth Geneva Convention does not undermine this conclusion. As noted, Article 66 permits an occupying power to try civilians in its "properly constituted, non-political military courts," 6 U. S. T., at 3558. The commentary on this provision states:
The Court states that this commentary "defines `"regularly constituted"' tribunals to include `ordinary military courts' and `definitely exclud[e] all special tribunals.'" Ante, at 632 (alteration in original). This much is clear from the commentary itself. Yet the mere statement that a military court is a regularly constituted tribunal is of no help in addressing petitioner's claim that his commission is not such a tribunal. As for the commentary's mention of "special tribunals," it is doubtful whether we should take this gloss on Article 66—which prohibits an occupying power from trying civilians in courts set up specially for that purpose—to tell
But even if Common Article 3 recognizes this prohibition on "special tribunals," that prohibition does not cover petitioner's tribunal. If "special" means anything in contradistinction to "regular," it would be in the sense of "special" as "relating to a single thing," and "regular" as "uniform in course, practice, or occurrence." Webster's Third New International Dictionary 2186, 1913. Insofar as respondents propose to conduct the tribunals according to the procedures of Military Commission Order No. 1 and orders promulgated thereunder—and nobody has suggested respondents intend otherwise—then it seems that petitioner's tribunal, like the hundreds of others respondents propose to conduct, is very much regular and not at all special.
I also disagree with the Court's conclusion that petitioner's military commission is "illegal," ante, at 625, because its procedures allegedly do not comply with 10 U. S. C. § 836. Even if § 836(b), unlike Common Article 3, does impose at least a limited uniformity requirement amongst the tribunals contemplated by the UCMJ, but see ante, at 711-712 (THOMAS, J., dissenting), and even if it is assumed for the sake of argument that some of the procedures specified in Military Commission Order No. 1 impermissibly deviate from court-martial procedures, it does not follow that the military commissions created by that order are not "regularly constituted" or that trying petitioner before such a commission would be inconsistent with the law of war. If Congress enacted a statute requiring the federal district courts to follow a procedure that is unconstitutional, the statute would be invalid, but the district courts would not. Likewise, if some of the procedures that may be used in military commission proceedings are improper, the appropriate remedy is to proscribe the use of those particular procedures, not to outlaw
Returning to the three elements of Common Article 3-(1) a court, (2) that is appointed, set up, and established in compliance with domestic law, and (3) that respects universally recognized fundamental rights—I conclude that all of these elements are satisfied in this case.
First, the commissions qualify as courts.
Second, the commissions were appointed, set up, and established pursuant to an order of the President, just like the commission in Ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1 (1942), and the Court acknowledges that Quirin recognized that the statutory predecessor of 10 U. S. C. § 821 "preserved" the President's power "to convene military commissions," ante, at 593. Although JUSTICE KENNEDY concludes that "an acceptable degree of independence from the Executive is necessary to render a commission `regularly constituted' by the standards of our Nation's system of justice," ante, at 645, he offers no support for this proposition (which in any event seems to be more about fairness or integrity than regularity). The commission in Quirin was certainly no more independent from the Executive than the commissions at issue here, and 10 U. S. C. §§ 821 and 836 do not speak to this issue.
Finally, the commission procedures, taken as a whole, and including the availability of review by a United States Court of Appeals and by this Court, do not provide a basis for
Surely the entire commission structure cannot be stricken merely because it is possible that the governing rules might be changed during the course of one or more proceedings. If a change is made and applied during the course of an ongoing proceeding and if the accused is found guilty, the validity of that procedure can be considered in the review proceeding for that case. After all, not every midtrial change will be prejudicial. A midtrial change might amend the governing rules in a way that is inconsequential or actually favorable to the accused.
As for the standard for the admission of evidence at commission proceedings, the Court does not suggest that this rule violates the international standard incorporated into Common Article 3 ("the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples," 6 U. S. T., at 3320). Rules of evidence differ from country to country, and much of the world does not follow aspects of our evidence
In sum, I believe that Common Article 3 is satisfied here because the military commissions (1) qualify as courts, (2) that were appointed and established in accordance with domestic law, and (3) any procedural improprieties that might occur in particular cases can be reviewed in those cases.
The commentary on Common Article 3 supports this interpretation. The commentary on Common Article 3, ¶ 1(d), in its entirety states:
It seems clear that the commissions at issue here meet this standard. Whatever else may be said about the system that was created by Military Commission Order No. 1 and augmented by the Detainee Treatment Act, § 1005(e)(1), 119 Stat. 2742, this system—which features formal trial procedures, multiple levels of administrative review, and the opportunity for review by a United States Court of Appeals and by this Court—does not dispense "summary justice."
* * *
For these reasons, I respectfully dissent.
Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the American Center for Law and Justice et al. by Jay Alan Sekulow, Stuart J. Roth, James M. Henderson, Sr., Colby M. May, and Robert W. Ash; for Common Defence by Daniel P. Collins; for Former Attorneys General of the United States et al. by Andrew G. McBride and Kathryn Comerford Todd; and for the Washington Legal Foundation et al. by Daniel J. Popeo and Richard A. Samp.
Briefs of amici curiae were filed for the Human Rights Committee of the Bar of England and Wales et al. by Stephen J. Pollak and John Townsend Rich; for the Center for National Security Studies et al. by John Payton, Seth P. Waxman, Paul R. Q. Wolfson, Kate Martin, and Joseph Onek; for Certain Former Federal Judges by Paul C. Saunders; for the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation by Kent S. Scheidegger; for Human Rights First et al. by Robert P. LoBue and Deborah Pearlstein; for Legal Scholars and Historians by Daniel C. Tepstein; for the Office of Chief Defense Counsel, Office of Military Commissions, by Dwight H. Sullivan and Michael D. Mori; for Retired Generals and Admirals et al. by David H. Remes; for the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights by Christopher J. Wright and Timothy J. Simeone; for Lawrence M. Friedman et al. by William F. Alderman; for Ryan Goodman et al. by Mark A. Packman; for Senator Lindsey Graham et al. by Jeffrey A. Lamken; for Louis Henkin et al. by Carlos M. Vázquez, pro se; for David Hicks by Joshua L. Dratel, Mr. Mori, Marc A. Goldman, and Michael B. DeSanctis; for Arthur R. Miller by Mr. Remes; for Richard D. Rosen et al. by Steven H. Goldblatt; for More Than 300 Detainees Incarcerated at U. S. Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, et al. by Thomas B. Wilner, Neil H. Koslowe, and Kristine A. Huskey; and for 422 Current and Former Members of the United Kingdom and European Union Parliaments by Claude B. Stansbury.
While statements attributed to the final bill's two other sponsors, Senators Graham and Kyl, arguably contradict Senator Levin's contention that the final version of the DTA preserved jurisdiction over pending habeas cases, see 151 Cong. Rec. S14263-S14264 (Dec. 21, 2005), those statements appear to have been inserted into the Congressional Record after the Senate debate. See Reply Brief for Petitioner 5, n. 6; see also 151 Cong. Rec. S14260 (statement of Sen. Kyl) ("I would like to say a few words about the now-completed National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2006" (emphasis added)). All statements made during the debate itself support Senator Levin's understanding that the final text of the DTA would not render subsection (e)(1) applicable to pending cases. See, e. g., id., at S14245, S14252-S14253, S14274-S14275 (Dec. 21, 2005). The statements that JUSTICE SCALIA cites as evidence to the contrary construe subsection (e)(3) to strip this Court of jurisdiction, see post, at 666, n. 4 (dissenting opinion) (quoting 151 Cong. Rec. S12796 (Nov. 15, 2005) (statement of Sen. Specter))—a construction that the Government has expressly disavowed in this litigation, see n. 11, infra. The inapposite November 14, 2005, statement of Senator Graham, which JUSTICE SCALIA cites as evidence of that Senator's "assumption that pending cases are covered," post, at 666, and n. 3 (citing 151 Cong. Rec. S12756 (Nov. 14, 2005)), follows directly after the uncontradicted statement of his cosponsor, Senator Levin, assuring members of the Senate that "the amendment will not strip the courts of jurisdiction over [pending] cases," id., at S12755.
In reaching this conclusion, the Court of Appeals conflated two distinct inquiries: (1) whether Hamdan has raised a substantial argument that the military commission lacks authority to try him; and, more fundamentally, (2) whether the comity considerations underlying Councilman apply to trigger the abstention principle in the first place. As the Court of Appeals acknowledged at the beginning of its opinion, the first question warrants consideration only if the answer to the second is yes. See 415 F. 3d, at 36-37. Since, as the Court of Appeals properly concluded, the answer to the second question is in fact no, there is no need to consider any exception.
At any rate, it appears that the exception would apply here. As discussed in Part VI, infra, Hamdan raises a substantial argument that, because the military commission that has been convened to try him is not a "`regularly constituted court'" under the Geneva Conventions, it is ultra vires and thus lacks jurisdiction over him. Brief for Petitioner 5.
"If, in foreign invasion or civil war, the courts are actually closed, and it is impossible to administer criminal justice according to law, then, on the theatre of active military operations, where war really prevails, there is a necessity to furnish a substitute for the civil authority, thus overthrown, to preserve the safety of the army and society; and as no power is left but the military, it is allowed to govern by martial rule until the laws can have their free course. As necessity creates the rule, so it limits its duration; for, if this government is continued after the courts are reinstated, it is a gross usurpation of power. Martial rule can never exist where the courts are open, and in the proper and unobstructed exercise of their jurisdiction. It is also confined to the locality of actual war." 4 Wall., at 127 (emphasis in original).
Finally, JUSTICE THOMAS' assertion that Julius Otto Kuehn's trial by military commission "for conspiring with Japanese officials to betray the United States Fleet to the Imperial Japanese Government prior to its attack on Pearl Harbor" stands as authoritative precedent for Hamdan's trial by commission, post, at 686, misses the mark in three critical respects. First, Kuehn was tried for federal espionage crimes under what were then 50 U. S. C. §§ 31, 32, and 34, not with common-law violations of the law of war. See Hearings before the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack, 79th Cong., 1st Sess., pt. 30, pp. 3067-3069 (1946). Second, he was tried by martial law commission (a kind of commission JUSTICE THOMAS acknowledges is not relevant to the analysis here, and whose jurisdiction extends to offenses committed within "the exercise of. . . martial law," Winthrop 837; see, n. 28, supra), not a commission established exclusively to try violations of the law of war, see Winthrop 837. Third, the martial law commissions established to try crimes in Hawaii were ultimately declared illegal by this Court. See Duncan v. Kahanamoku, 327 U.S. 304, 324 (1946) ("The phrase `martial law' as employed in [the Hawaiian Organic Act], while intended to authorize the military to act vigorously for the maintenance of an orderly civil government and for the defense of the Islands against actual or threatened rebellion or invasion, was not intended to authorize the supplanting of courts by military tribunals").
First, the crimes Justice THOMAS identifies were not actually charged. It is one thing to observe that charges before a military commission "`need not be stated with the precision of a common law indictment,'" post, at 692, n. 7; it is quite another to say that a crime not charged may nonetheless be read into an indictment. Second, the Government plainly had available to it the tools and the time it needed to charge petitioner with the various crimes Justice THOMAS refers to, if it believed they were supported by the allegations. As Justice THOMAS himself observes, see post, at 697, the crime of aiding the enemy may, in circumstances where the accused owes allegiance to the party whose enemy he is alleged to have aided, be triable by military commission pursuant to Article 104 of the UCMJ, 10 U. S. C. § 904. Indeed, the Government has charged detainees under this provision when it has seen fit to do so. See Brief for David Hicks as Amicus Curiae 7.
Third, the cases Justice THOMAS relies on to show that Hamdan may be guilty of violations of the law of war not actually charged do not support his argument. Justice THOMAS begins by blurring the distinction between those categories of "offender" who may be tried by military commission (e. g., jayhawkers and the like) with the "offenses" that may be so tried. Even when it comes to "`being a guerrilla,'" cf. post, at 695, n. 9, a label alone does not render a person susceptible to execution or other criminal punishment; the charge of "`being a guerrilla'" invariably is accompanied by the allegation that the defendant "`took up arms'" as such. This is because, as explained by Judge Advocate General Holt in a decision upholding the charge of "`being a guerrilla'" as one recognized by "the universal usage of the times," the charge is simply shorthand (akin to "being a spy") for "the perpetration of a succession of similar acts" of violence. Record Books of the Judge Advocate General Office, R. 3, 590. The sources cited by Justice THOMAS confirm as much. See cases cited post, at 694-695, n. 9.
Likewise, the suggestion that the Nuremberg precedents support Hamdan's conviction for the (uncharged) crime of joining a criminal organization must fail. Cf. post, at 695-697. The convictions of certain high-level Nazi officials for "membership in a criminal organization" were secured pursuant to specific provisions of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal that permitted indictment of individual organization members following convictions of the organizations themselves. See Arts. 9 and 10, in 1 Trial of the Major War Criminals Before the International Military Tribunal: Nuremberg, 14 November 1945-1 October 1946, p. 12 (1947). The initial plan to use organizations' convictions as predicates for mass individual trials ultimately was abandoned. See T. Taylor, Anatomy of the Nuremberg Trials: A Personal Memoir 584-585, 638 (1992).
"It is outside our basic scheme to condemn men without giving reasonable opportunity for preparing defense; in capital or other serious crimes to convict on `official documents . . .; affidavits; . . . documents or translations thereof; diaries . . ., photographs, motion picture films, and . . . newspapers' or on hearsay, once, twice or thrice removed, more particularly when the documentary evidence or some of it is prepared ex parte by the prosecuting authority and includes not only opinion but conclusions of guilt. Nor in such cases do we deny the rights of confrontation of witnesses and cross-examination." Yamashita, 327 U. S., at 44 (footnotes omitted).
"(a) The following persons are subject to [the UCMJ]:
"(9) Prisoners of war in custody of the armed forces.
"(12) Subject to any treaty or agreement to which the United States is or may be a party or to any accepted rule of international law, persons within an area leased by or otherwise reserved or acquired for the use of the United States which is under the control of the Secretary concerned and which is outside the United States and outside the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands." 10 U. S. C. § 802(a).
Guantanamo Bay is such a leased area. See Rasul v. Bush, 542 U.S. 466, 471 (2004).
The Court might more cogently have relied on the discretionary nature of review to argue that the statute provides an inadequate substitute for habeas review under the Suspension Clause. See supra, at 670-672. But this argument would have no force, even if all appeals to the D. C. Circuit were discretionary. The exercise of habeas jurisdiction has traditionally been entirely a matter of the court's equitable discretion, see Withrow v. Williams, 507 U.S. 680, 715-718 (1993) (SCALIA, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part), so the fact that habeas jurisdiction is replaced by discretionary appellate review does not render the substitution "inadequate." Swain, 430 U. S., at 381.
Nevertheless, the plurality contends that Hamdan was "not actually charged," ante, at 601, n. 32 (emphasis deleted), with being a member in a war-criminal organization. But that position is demonstrably wrong. Hamdan's charging document expressly charges that he "willfully and knowingly joined an enterprise of persons who shared a common criminal purpose." App. to Pet. for Cert. 65a. Moreover, the plurality's contention that we may only look to the label affixed to the charge to determine if the charging document alleges an offense triable by military commission is flatly inconsistent with its treatment of the Civil War cases—where it accepts as valid charges that did not appear in the heading or title of the charging document, or even the listed charge itself, but only in the supporting specification. See, e. g., ante, at 609 (discussing the military commission trial of Wirz). For example, in the Wirz case, Wirz was charged with conspiring to violate the laws of war, and that charge was supported with allegations that he personally committed a number of atrocities. The plurality concludes that military commission jurisdiction was appropriate in that case not based upon the charge of conspiracy, but rather based upon the allegations of various atrocities in the specification which were not separately charged. Ante, at 609. Just as these atrocities, not separately charged, were independent violations of the law of war supporting Wirz's trial by military commission, so too here Hamdan's membership in al Qaeda and his provision of various forms of assistance to al Qaeda's top leadership are independent violations of the law of war supporting his trial by military commission.
The plurality's claim that the charge against Leger Grenfel supports its compound offense theory is similarly unsupportable. The plurality does not, and cannot, dispute that Grenfel was charged with conspiring to violate the laws of war by releasing rebel prisoners—a charge that bears no relation to a crime "ordinarily triable in civilian courts." Ante, at 609, n. 37. Tellingly, the plurality does not reference or discuss this charge, but instead refers to the conclusion of Judge Advocate Holt that Grenfel also "`united himself with traitors and malefactors for the overthrow of our Republic in the interest of slavery.'" Ante, at 610, n. 37 (quoting H. R. Doc. No. 314, at 689). But Judge Advocate Holt's observation provides no support for the plurality's conclusion, as it does not discuss the charges that sustained military commission jurisdiction, much less suggest that such charges were not violations of the law of war.