Supreme court rules Bush officials cannot be sued over 9/11 detentions

Patrice Gainsbourg
Junho 20, 2017

The US Supreme Court ruled Monday that senior officials from president George W. Bush's administration can not be held responsible for abuses against Muslim immigrants and others held in the frantic response to the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The justices by a 4-2 vote ended a long-running lawsuit against former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former FBI Director Robert Mueller and other top Bush administration officials.

Both men could have been personally liable in lawsuits had the court ruled against them.

In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that the case arose in the aftermath of the deadly attacks, when US officials wanted to be sure that there were no other potential attackers in the country. He argued he would have allowed the plaintiffs' claims to go forward, and he noted the plaintiffs were "shackled", "slammed against walls" and "verbally abused". All of them were eventually released and deported.

"If the facts alleged in the complaint are true, then what happened to respondents in the days following September 11 was tragic", the court's ruling read.

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It left open the possibility for the men to challenge their detention conditions by proving their case against the prison warden.

The justices ruled that Congress, not the courts, should have authority on that decision.

Justice Stephen Breyer took the unusual step of reading his dissent, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, from the bench.

"History tells us of far too many instances where the executive or legislative branch took action during time of war that on later examination, turned out unnecessarily and unreasonably to have deprived American citizens of basic constitutional rights", Breyer wrote in his dissent.

Robert Mueller, the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director who is now the special counsel investigating President Trump's campaign.

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