But the Administration of President George W. Bush has recently showed it is more than capable of hustling on issues it considers top priorities.
Salim Ahmed Hamdan was captured in Afghanistan in late 2001, during a time of hostilities in that country that followed the terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001 mounted by al Qaeda.
He was detained by American military forces and transferred to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, sometime in 2002. In July 2003, President Bush found "that there is reason to believe that [Hamdan] was a member of al Qaida or was otherwise involved in terrorism directed against the United States, " and designated him an enemy combatant to be tried by military commission. In April 2004, Hamdan 's counsel filed a habeas corpus petition, which is now pending.
In July 2004, Hamdan was formally charged with conspiracy to attack civilians and civilian objects, murder by an unprivileged belligerent, destruction of property by an unprivileged belligerent, and terrorism.
His defense alleges he was denied a speedy trial, challenges the nature and length of his pretrial detention as a violation of the Geneva Convention, and the legality of Military Commissions as a violation of the separation of powers doctrine and of the equal protection guarantees of the Fifth Amendment.
But, in its recent motion, the government argued that when Congress passed the Graham/Levin/Kyl amendment at the end of 2005 -- The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 -- it stripped the Court of jurisdiction to hear Hamdan 's case as well as all other pending Guantanamo appeals.
The "court-stripping " measure was a last minute amendment to the "must pass " Military Authorization Bill. The amendment was introduced by Republican Senators Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and John Kyl of Arizona, and Democrat Senator Carl Levin of Michigan.
"The government 's motion seeking to deny the Supreme Court the power to review a habeas case it has already taken up to review is one of the most serious challenges to Supreme Court authority since the Civil War, " says Deborah Pearlstein, the Director of the U.S. Law and Security Program of Human Rights First, a legal advocacy group.
"The Constitution itself gives the high court the power to hear challenges to the legality of executive detention through the writ of habeas corpus, and neither the President nor Congress can take that away, " the organization asserts.
Another major advocacy group, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), notes that "the first task this Administration has chosen to undertake in the New Year is the dismissal of all pending Guanta'namo habeas corpus petitions. "
It adds that most Guantanamo detainees "have no ties to Al Qaeda, many were turned over to the U.S. for bounty, and even more were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. If they have no way to appeal their innocence or their status, they will be left to rot in detention indefinitely. "
Brian J. Foley, a professor at Florida Coastal School of Law, charges that Congress "was foolish to pass this law, because these enormous presidential powers can so easily be turned against U.S. citizens. What if a U.S. citizen is rounded up and never given a hearing to test whether he's an enemy combatant -- or even a U.S. citizen? Well, he can't access the courts, thanks to this statute. "