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Solicitor General Theodore Olson used his final day as the Bush administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer to lament the Court’s decision siding with foreign terrorism suspects over the president. He said Friday that the court term that ended last week held no good news for conservatives, especially the ruling that opened American courts to “enemy combatants” being held at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. “U.S. courts … have never been extended so far,” Olson told members of the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group. Olson, whose wife died in the plane that crashed into the Pentagon during the Sept. 11 attacks, had argued before the justices that the president needed broad powers to hold and interrogate foreigners who might pose future threats without giving them access to courts. The Supreme Court disagreed 6-3 and handed President George W. Bush’s administration a separate loss in ruling that American citizens being held as enemy combatants in the United States also cannot be denied legal rights. He said the rulings on the president’s wartime power appear to overrule World War II-era Supreme Court decisions that gave the White House broad authority. “The justices of this Court, I submit, are keenly sensitive that the Court’s human rights precedents have not, in retrospect, been perceived as the Court’s finest hours,” Olson said. Olson noted the 1942 ruling that upheld the military trials of eight German saboteurs, including six who were executed, and the 1944 decision affirming the detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II. “The underlying current in the enemy combatant cases is that this Court is determined not to go down in history as the court that turned its back when asked to help,” Olson said. After three years arguing Bush administration cases at the high court, the 63-year-old Olson is returning to private practice. His top deputy, Paul Clement, will take over on an acting basis. During the speech at the Federalist Society, Olson said the term’s moderate bent came about not because Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist yielded ground but because liberal Justice John Paul Stevens exerted his influence. Stevens, in authoring the opinion that gave Guantanamo Bay detainees rights to American courts, “ingeniously crafted the Court’s dramatic shift in habeas corpus jurisdiction for alien detainees who have never set foot in the United States,” Olson said. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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