Bush wants limits on access to evidence
The Bush administration asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to limit judges' authority to scrutinize evidence against detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
The administration said the court could still add the issue to its calendar this year and hear arguments in a rare May session, then render a decision by late June.
The case is linked to another dispute already at the high court in which detainees are asking the justices to rule that they can use the U.S. civilian courts to challenge their indefinite imprisonment.
Another option for the court is to take no action on the new case until it decides on the extent of the detainees' legal rights.
In the new case, the administration is asking the court to undo a federal appeals court ruling that broadens its authority to look at evidence about whether detainees have been properly characterized as enemy combatants.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit initially ruled on the case in July. The full court refused in early February, in a 5-5 split, to reconsider that ruling. It takes a majority of the court to reconsider a panel decision.
The ruling held that, when Guantanamo Bay detainees challenge their status as "enemy combatants," judges must review all the evidence, not just the evidence the military chooses.
The administration said the decision jeopardizes national security.
At the Guantanamo hearings, detainees are not allowed to have lawyers present and the Pentagon decides what evidence to present. And unlike in criminal trials, the government is not obligated to turn over evidence that the defendant might be innocent.
If the military reviewers designate a prisoner as an enemy combatant, the prisoner can challenge that decision before the appeals court in Washington. The administration wants the appeals court to look at only the evidence considered by the Pentagon panel that decided the detainee is an enemy combatant.
A decision to hear the new case could come as early as Tuesday.
The case is Gates v. Bismullah, 07-1054.
Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press.