NewsHour Extra Feature Stories
NewsHour Extra features stories can help students identify and interpret key issues
in current events. This activity anticipates one class period, but the follow-up
essay might be assigned as homework, or in another period.
Up: Use initiating questions to introduce the topic and find out how much
your students know.
Activity: Have students read NewsHour Extra's feature story and answer the
questions on the reading comprehension handout.
Use discussion questions to encourage students to think about how the issues outlined
in the story affect their lives and express and debate different opinions.
Students can write an 500-word editorial on the topic expressing their views
and send it to NewsHour Extra [firstname.lastname@example.org]
for possible publication.
Students are graded on their answers to reading comprehension questions and/or
Supreme Court Hears Guantanamo Case, 4/21/04
1. Can the U.S. imprison suspected criminals without a trial?
What about people suspected of plotting terrorist attacks? What about people caught
during military action, such as the war in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11
can the U.S. do if officials still consider such prisoners threats?
Comprehension Questions: (click here for printout)
What was the focus of Tuesday's Supreme Court hearing?
Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday in a case that will determine whether
foreign prisoners being held at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba can
be tried by American courts.
Who is the U.S. military holding at Guantanamo Bay? Why?
U.S. military has been holding about 600 prisoners at Guantanamo since early 2002.
In efforts to capture members of the al-Qaida network, believed to be responsible
for the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, the United States
battled Afghanistan's Taliban government, catching many of the current prisoners.
Have the detainees been charged with a crime?
then, the Bush administration has claimed the right to hold the prisoners indefinitely,
refusing them access to lawyers and not charging them officially. The Department
of Defense cites the need to preserve security during war.
What protection should the non-U.S. citizens have under the U.S. Constitution
according to their lawyers?
for 16 British, Australian and Kuwaiti detainees argued that the U.S. Constitution
does not allow the government to create a prison that falls outside the reaches
of American courts and that prisoners should have access to those courts to fight
for their release.
Why does the government say the detainees should not be able to argue their cases
in U.S. courts?
federal government argued the earlier ruling, involving German prisoners in U.S.
custody during World War II, should be maintained, or upheld. The government also
argued that U.S. courts should not interfere with the military and its trial procedures.
What is the debate over who controls the Guantanamo Bay naval base?
the lease the two governments signed, the Bush administration argued, Cuba holds
ultimate control over the property. Lawyers for the detainees say the naval base,
which houses a detention camp for prisoners captured in foreign wars, is U.S.
territory and therefore prisoners should be protected by U.S. laws.
law doesn't apply there. Cuban law has never had any application inside that base.
A stamp with Fidel Castro's picture on it wouldn't get a letter off the base,"
said John Gibbons, the attorney representing the detainees.
What did Justice Stephen Breyer say about the government's activities at Guantanamo
members of the court seemed to agree with Gibbons' argument, including Justice
Stephen Breyer, who raised the notion of checks and balances, the U.S. form of
government that allows for each of the three branches of government to rein in
seems rather contrary to an idea of a Constitution with three branches that the
executive would be free to do whatever they want, whatever they want without a
check," Breyer said.
Does Justice Antonin Scalia agree with Justice Breyer?
Justice Antonin Scalia questioned whether the court was in a position to create
such a check on the government or the military.
"We have only lawyers
before us, we have no witnesses, we have no cross-examination, we have no investigative
staff," he said. "And we should be the ones, Justice Breyer suggests,
to draw up this reticulated system to preserve our military from intervention
by the courts?"
What case will the Supreme Court hear on April 28?
April 28, the court will review the cases of two U.S. citizens being held indefinitely
as "enemy combatants" -- Yaser Hamdi, an American caught fighting with
the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Chicago native Jose Padilla, who changed his name
to Abdullah al-Muhajir. The FBI arrested Padilla after it reportedly uncovered
a plot to explode a so-called "dirty bomb" -- a bomb that can be used
to spread radioactive material.
Hamdi nor Padilla has been charged with a crime. Their lawyers are asking that
they be released or officially charged and given the opportunity to argue their
cases in court, a right afforded to all Americans under the Constitution.
Activity (more research might be needed):
What is the system of "checks and balances" in the American form of
government? Explain how it works and how it could affect the cases the Supreme
Court is now hearing?
If the government loses the three cases being heard by the court, limits could
be set on how much power it has in prosecuting criminals in the war on terrorism?
Is this a good thing or not? Should the Department of Defense be allowed to deal
with detainees in whatever manner it sees fit? Explain your answer.
Some people have accused the government of compromising civil liberties in order
to preserve national security. The Patriot Act is one way they say the government
does this. Do you agree or disagree? Research the Patriot Act to determine your
opinion of its merits and limitations.
Pretend you are the president of the United States. You have a suspected terrorist
in custody, who may have information leading to the capture of a ring of terrorists
believed to be responsible for a recent bombing. Do you, a) hold him indefinitely
until you get the information you think he has, or b) give him access to a court
trial where he may go free without providing any information? Explain your rationale.
a 300-500 word essay on any of these topics providing clear examples. Send your
completed editorial to NewsHour Extra (email@example.com).
Exceptional essays might be published on our Web site.