"Obsessed with maintaining a maximally free hand, the Bush administration often finds international commitments--and even international restraints--paradoxically attractive when dealing with federal judges," writes Burkle Center Director Kal Raustiala in The New Republic Online.
In a March 22, 2007, opinion article for The New Republic Online (subscription), Burkle Center Director Kal Raustiala, an international lawyer, observes that the Bush administration's predilection for acting alone on the world stage has not prevented it from appealing to multilateralism and international law in federal courts. In three recent cases, the administration cited a United Nations drug control treaty, prospects for future negotiations on global warming, and UN authorization of the force occupying Iraq in order to advance legal arguments.
In the last case, the administration argued unsuccessfully that U.S. courts could not review the detention of a U.S. citizen, Shawqi Omar, who was captured and is still held in Iraq by the U.S. military.
The central issue here is whether the executive branch can sidestep habeas corpus by invoking the multilateral nature of the Iraq war itself. Is the existence of other foreign forces in Iraq, coupled with the endorsement of the U.N. Security Council, sufficient to transform the detention of an American citizen by American officials into an international detention that federal judges cannot touch? In its decision handed down last month the D.C. Circuit rightly said no.