Today, the Supreme Court takes up a potentially historic challenge raising vital questions about the allocation of power among Congress, the president and the federal courts in the war on terror. But first it must decide whether it has the authority to decide.

In one sense, accused enemy combatant Salim Ahmed Hamdan is a bit player in the much larger drama unfolding in the nation: The Bush administration faces increasing scrutiny for policies — such as the use of torture in interrogations and a domestic surveillance program — pursued in the name of the war on terror.

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