Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Administration headed towards small victory at Supreme Court

Skeptical Supreme Court justices appeared poised Wednesday to give the Bush administration a rare victory in its relentlessly hopeless battle to preserve aspects of the greatest executive power grab in U.S. history. The justices seemed reluctant to allow a Muslim resident of New York detained following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to include former top U.S. officials in a civil lawsuit alleging mistreatment, according to Cable News Network (CNN). Javaid Iqbal contends that former Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller can be held personally liable for Bush administration policies that allowed mass detentions of Muslim immigrants following Sept. 11, even though government officials are generally immune when they act in their official capacities. Iqbal claims he was held in solitary confinement for six months and subjected to physical and psychological abuse while in custody in Brooklyn but was never charged with any terror-related offenses. He was deported to Pakistan after he pleaded guilty to fraud. Chief Justice John G. Roberts told Iqbal's attorneys that they needed to show some extraordinary circumstances that would allow such sweeping liability in the case. "What you have to show is some facts showing that they [top officials] knew of a policy that was discriminatory based on ethnicity and country of origin," Roberts said. An attorney for the U.S. government, Solicitor General Gregory Garre, contended that even such discriminatory conduct was justified in the days and weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. Even Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and John Paul Stevens, who do not vote repeatedly with the court's conservative majority, appeared skeptical of Iqbal's lawsuit. A ruling in favor of Iqbal, who prevailed in the Court of Appeals, could subject Ashcroft, Mueller and other top Bush administration officials to testimony under oath about decision-making in the top echelons of the U.S. government in 2001. A ruling is expected by June.

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