Scalia Says Constitution Doesn’t Cover Detainees

From the Associated Press

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia reportedly told an overseas audience this month that the U.S. Constitution did not protect foreigners held at America’s military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Scalia also told the audience at the University of Freiberg in Switzerland that he was “astounded” at the “hypocritical” reaction in Europe to the prison, said this week’s issue of Newsweek. The comments came weeks before justices were to take up an appeal from a detainee at Guantanamo Bay.

Justices will hear arguments Tuesday on Salim Ahmed Hamdan’s claim that President Bush overstepped his constitutional authority in ordering a military trial for Hamdan -- the former driver of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden -- held at the prison for nearly four years.


Two years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that detainees could use U.S. courts to challenge their detention. Scalia disagreed with the ruling, and in the recent speech asserted that enemy combatants had no legal rights.

“War is war, and it has never been the case that when you captured a combatant you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts,” Newsweek quoted Scalia as saying. “Give me a break.”

Scalia reportedly was challenged by an audience member in Switzerland about whether Guantanamo detainees had protection under the Geneva or human rights conventions.

Newsweek reported that Scalia replied, “If he was captured by my army on a battlefield, that is where he belongs. I had a son on that battlefield and they were shooting at my son, and I’m not about to give this man who was captured in a war a full jury trial. I mean it’s crazy.” Scalia’s son Matthew served in Iraq.