Supreme Court Bails Out Bush Officials Over 9

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The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Bush Administration officials for the harsh treatment of illegal immigrants following the September 11th attacks. Veuer's Natasha Abellard has the story. Buzz60

The Supreme Court decided a case brought by Muslim non-citizens detained for months after the 9/11 attacks.(Photo: Carmen Taylor, AP)

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WASHINGTON -- Bush administration officials should not be held personally liable for the detention and harsh treatment of illegal immigrants in the calamitous days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Supreme Court ruled Monday.

In a case heard by only six justices, the court's conservative majority reasoned that the climate of fear pervading the nation in the fall of 2001 called for extreme measures by law enforcement officials. If those actions justify monetary damages nearly a generation later is a question for Congress to decide, the justices ruled, because it involves matters of government policy.

"The risk of personal damages liability is more likely to cause an official to second-guess difficult but necessary decisions concerning national-security policy," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the court.

The ruling was a victory for top officials in the Bush administration, including former attorney general John Ashcroft and FBI director Robert Mueller -- now the special counsel investigating possible collusion between President Trump's election campaign and the Russian government. They risked being on the hook personally if the justices ruled against them.

The case was brought by six Muslim non-citizens who were among hundreds jailed and subjected to harsh treatment, largely because they fit the racial and religious profile of the 9/11 attackers. All eventually were released and deported, based on their immigration status.

"What happened to respondents in the days following September 11 was tragic," Kennedy wrote in a 4-2 decision, with two justices recused and the newest justice, Neil Gorsuch, not participating. "The question before the court, however, is not whether petitioners' alleged conduct was proper," but "whether to allow an action for money damages in the absence of congressional authorization."

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The case was unusual in several respects. It was the last case argued at the court in January by President Barack Obama's Justice Department, who were defending the actions of their Republican predecessors. With the late Justice Antonin Scalia's seat still vacant at the time, recusals by Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan -- presumably because of past involvement with the case -- left the court with only six voting members.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a lengthy dissent, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. "History tells us of far too many instances where the executive or legislative branch took actions during time of war that, on later examination, turned out unnecessarily and unreasonably to have deprived American citizens of basic constitutional rights," Breyer said.

Arguing for the Muslim men was Rachel Meeropol, the granddaughter of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were convicted as Soviet spies and executed in 1953 during the height of McCarthyism. She contended that the men were rounded up, held in restrictive conditions and "treated as suspected terrorists" because of their appearance and immigration status.

Hundreds of Middle Eastern men were subjected to similar treatment in New York and New Jersey at the time before being removed from the country because of their immigration status. The Bush administration's policy was to hold them until they were cleared, which often took weeks or months.

Obama's acting solicitor general, Ian Gershengorn, said during oral argument that following the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, "you couldn't tell ... who did and who did not have a potential link to terrorism."

Source : https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/06/19/supreme-court-bails-out-bush-officials-over-911-detentions/100852374/

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