“The Constitution applies in times of peace and war,” President Bush’s nominee to the Supreme Court said in the first round of questioning before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “The Bill of Rights applies at all times.”
In the second day of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee on his nomination to the United States Supreme Court, Judge Alito said, preservation of individual rights is particularly important in wartime because that is when the temptation to abuse liberties in the name of national security is most dangerous.
Declaring that the Constitution “protects the rights of Americans in all circumstances,” Judge Alito was addressing an issue that his critics have called very troubling: whether he would too easily embrace the concept of far-reaching executive power, as his critics say the judge’s paper trail seems to indicate.
In agreeing that the president does not have “a blank check” in terms of power, even in wartime emergencies, Judge Alito embraced the language of the justice he would succeed, Sandra Day O’Connor, who so wrote in a decision that upheld the right of a prisoner held as an “enemy combatant” to use the courts to challenge the basis of his confinement.