Far more critically, although the Constitution may require generally that a habeas court have the authority to order release, no court should be able to order that an alien captured and detained abroad during wartime be admitted and released into the United States .
Second, it is imperative that the proceedings for these enemy combatants be conducted in a way that protects how our Nation gathers intelligence, and what that intelligence is. In the terrorism case I mentioned a minute ago, the government was required by law to turn over to the defense a list of unindicted co-conspirators - a list that included Osama bin Laden . This was in 1995, long before most Americans had ever heard of Osama bin Laden . As we learned later, that list found its way into bin Laden's hands in Khartoum , tipping him off to the fact that the United States Government was aware not only of him but also of the identity of many of his co-conspirators. We simply cannot afford to reveal to terrorists all that we know about them and how we acquired that information. We need to protect our national security secrets, and we can do so in a way that is fair to both the Government and detainees alike.
Third, Congress should make clear that habeas proceedings should not delay the military commission trials of detainees charged with war crimes. Twenty individuals have already been charged, and many more may be charged in the upcoming months. Last Thursday, we received a favorable decision from a federal court rejecting the effort of a detainee to block his military commission trial from going forward, but detainees will inevitably file further court challenges in an effort to delay these proceedings. Americans charged with crimes in our courts must wait until after their trials and appeals are finished before they can seek habeas relief. So should alien enemy combatants. Congress can and should reaffirm that habeas review for those combatants must await the outcome of their trials. The victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks should not have to wait any longer to see those who stand accused face trial.
Fourth, any legislation should acknowledge again and explicitly that this Nation remains engaged in an armed conflict with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated organizations, who have already proclaimed themselves at war with us and who are dedicated to the slaughter of Americans--soldiers and civilians alike. In order for us to prevail in that conflict, Congress should reaffirm that for the duration of the conflict the United States may detain as enemy combatants those who have engaged in hostilities or purposefully supported al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated organizations.
Fifth, Congress should establish sensible procedures for habeas challenges going forward. In order to eliminate the risk of duplicative efforts and inconsistent rulings, Congress should ensure that one district court takes exclusive jurisdiction over these habeas cases and should direct that common legal issues be decided by one judge in a coordinated fashion. And Congress should adopt rules that strike a reasonable balance between the detainees' rights to a fair hearing on the one hand, and our national security needs and the realities of wartime detention on the other hand. In other words, Congress should accept the Supreme Court's explicit invitation to make these proceedings, in a word repeated often in the Boumediene decision, practical--that is, proceedings adapted to the real world we live in, not the ideal world we wish we lived in.
Such rules should not provide greater protection than we would provide to American citizens held as enemy combatants in this conflict. And they must ensure that court proceedings are not permitted to interfere with the mission of our armed forces. Our soldiers fighting the War on Terror, for example, should not be required to leave the front lines to testify as witnesses in habeas hearings; affidavits, prepared after battlefield activities have ceased, should be enough.