Yesterday the Petitioners in the Al Odah case submitted their brief to the Supreme Court. At issue in the case is whether detainees at Guantanamo Bay have constitutionally protected rights to habeas corpus and due process. In February, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the elimination of habeas corpus rights for Guantanamo detainees under the Military Commissions Act did not violate the Suspension Clause of the Constitution because that clause does not apply to aliens held outside of U.S. sovereign territory.
The Supreme Court originally refused to hear the case, but in a highly unusual move, it later reversed itself and granted cert. The case, which seems likely to produce a historically significant opinion one way or the other, is scheduled for oral argument in December.
I've read through the brief submitted on behalf of the detainees (full text here), and it's quite compelling. I don't think the D.C. Circuit's bright-line holding that the Suspension Clause doesn't apply to foreigners held outside of U.S. sovereign territory is likely to hold up. It flies in the face of the Supreme Court's Rasul decision and it's just too rigid a rule, particularly if you're going to define Guantanamo Bay--a place that has long been under U.S. control and subject to U.S. law--as being outside of U.S. sovereign territory (as the brief notes, even the iguanas at Guantanamo are protected by U.S. law). Plus, if the Supreme Court agreed with the D.C. Circuit on this technical point, I find it hard to understand why they would have reversed themselves and agreed to hear the case.
So if we assume that the Suspension Clause does apply to detainees at Guantanamo, the question then becomes: has Congress either validly suspended habeas or provided an "adequate and effective" substitute for it? Under the terms of the Suspension Clause, Congress is only allowed to suspend habeas corpus in cases of "rebellion and invasion"--which is pretty clearly not the case here. So the ultimate issue is whether the Combatant Status Review Tribunals established by the President and ratified by Congress are an adequate and effective substitute for habeas under the holding of Swain v. Pressley, 430 U.S. 372, 382 (1977) ("[T]he 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.").
And this is where the Petitioners' brief is particularly compelling.