Court says Guantanamo prisoners have no right to contest imprisonment.

Court says Guantanamo prisoners have no right to contest imprisonment.

Court says Guantanamo prisoners have no right to contest imprisonment.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
Feb. 21 2007 5:07 AM

No Right

The New York Timesleads, the Wall Street Journal tops its world-wide newsbox, and the Los Angeles Timesoff-leads a federal appeals court ruling that foreign prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have no constitutional right to challenge their detention in federal courts. With the 2-1 decision, the court upheld the Military Commission Act passed last year by the Republican-controlled Congress. The Washington Postleads with yesterday's Supreme Court decision that overturned a $79.5 million award in punitive damages against Philip Morris. By sending the case back to Oregon courts, the justices set limits on the extent jurors can consider the harm a company caused to others who weren't part of the original case.

USA Todayleads with word that British Prime Minister Tony Blair told President Bush he plans to announce a "phased pullout" of troops from Iraq today. According to the BBC, Blair will say that up to 1,500 of the country's 7,000 troops currently in Iraq will begin to return home in a few weeks. The LAT leads locally with news that a Superior Court judge declared that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's strategy of dealing with overcrowded prisons by transferring inmates to other states is illegal.

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Lawyers advocating for the rights of detainees vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court, which twice before has said those held in Guantanamo have the right to contest their detention in federal courts. After the last Supreme Court decision, Congress passed the Military Commission Act to make clear that no such right exists. But now, many Democratic congressional leaders have vowed to amend the law in order to spell out habeas corpus rights for detainees.

The 5-4 decision in the Philip Morris case avoided getting into whether there should be a limit to the amount that can be awarded for punitive damages. In this particular case, the punitive damages award was 97 times the actual damages given to a smoker's widow. Regardless, it was seen as a clear victory for big business, particularly for those companies the general public might not view favorably.

The BBC, and other British media, said that Blair is planning to reduce to 3,000 the number of troops in Iraq by Christmas (according to the Guardian, all British troops will be pulled out by the end of 2008). The Bush administration described it as a positive step. "President Bush sees this as a sign of success and what is possible for us once we help the Iraqis deal with the sectarian violence in Baghdad," a National Security Council spokesman said.

The NYT fronts and the WP goes inside with a follow-up on the Sunni woman who went on Al Jazeera on Monday night and said she was kidnapped and raped by three officers from the Iraqi National Police. The Times has the most detailed look at the case and focuses on how the rape allegations once again served to highlight sectarian tensions. Shiite leaders condemned the woman while Sunni politicians offered their support and said the case highlights how the Iraqi government doesn't care about justice. The Post says the allegation illustrates the way Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki handles "damage control." At first Maliki vowed to investigate but a few hours later condemned the woman, said she was a criminal, and announced the three officers would be honored. Meanwhile, attacks continued and, according to the NYT, killed at least 17 people in the capital. Also, north of Baghdad, a truck carrying chlorine exploded, killed nine, and made more than 150 people "violently ill by the toxic fumes." The U.S. military announced a soldier was killed in Anbar province.     

The LAT fronts a look at the difficult decision facing U.S. and Iraqi forces of "when, whether, and how" they should take the new security crackdown to Sadr City, which is home to the Mahdi Army. So far, the troops have focused on Sunni insurgents, but there is mounting political pressure to demonstrate that the new plan will also target violent Shiites. Military commanders are worried about sparking an all-out war between Muqtada Sadr's Mahdi militia and U.S. and Iraqi troops. Complicating matters is the fact that members of the Mahdi militia have been mostly out of sight lately, and Sadr has actually endorsed the new security plan.

The NYT fronts, and the rest of the papers go inside with, the closing arguments in the perjury trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Prosecutors told jurors that Libby intentionally lied to protect his job and save the White House from embarrassment. Defense attorneys insisted any lies weren't intentional but rather the result of forgetfulness due to Libby's hectic schedule. The chief defense lawyer was emotional and asked the jury not to let anger over Iraq cloud their judgment and begged them to consider they could ruin a man's life and reputation.

Over on the NYT's op-ed page, Peter Funt writes about something that has been conspicuously missing from Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign—her surname. Funt takes a look at Clinton's campaign material and notices that the name "Clinton" rarely appears, and when it does it's usually to make a reference to her husband.  "Someone has apparently decided that Mrs. Clinton will be the first major single-name candidate since 1952, when Ike's P.R. gurus realized that 'Eisenhower' was tough to fit on a bumper sticker," writes Funt. 

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the Today’s Papers column from 2006 to 2009. Follow him on Twitter.