Wrong Place, Wrong Time

Castro will be glad. Just like his own citizens, all those foreign terrorists the US imported into his country still don’t have any rights.

In what will obviously spawn a plethora of news stories, cable news program ‘analysis,’ pro and contra blog entries and late night pundit jokes (DailyShow – Just had to take this week off – huh?), the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the Military Commissions Act on Tuesday. Thus spoke Zarathushtra headlined the WP, NYT, The Guardian, … From the Washington Post,

A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that hundreds of detainees in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, do not have the right to challenge their imprisonment in federal courts, a victory for the Bush administration that could lead to the Supreme Court again addressing the issue.

In its 2 to 1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld one of the central components of the Military Commissions Act, the law enacted last year by a then-Republican-controlled Congress that stripped Guantanamo detainees of their right to such habeas corpus petitions. Lawyers have filed the petitions on behalf of virtually all of the nearly 400 detainees still at Guantanamo, challenging President Bush’s right to hold them indefinitely without charges. Yesterday’s ruling effectively dismisses the cases.

Attorneys for the detainees vowed to quickly petition the Supreme Court to hear the case.

But, instead of looking forward at what this means. Whether this move is appropriate and understandable, I would prefer to look back briefly. I’d like to answer a question asked some time ago by one of my commenters Political Teen Blogger, FrecklesCassie. How do we know these guys are so bad that they need to be locked away on a tropical island somewhere?

The answer is patently simple: because someone says so; you can’t ask who of course, that’s classified.

At least that is the summary of a report put forth by the Seton hall law professor (and brother of one of the defending attorneys) Mark P. Denbeaux. In what can only be considered one of the best analysis of how the people in Guantanamo came to defined as ‘military combatants’ and thus to languish in an American torture camp, prison, detention center.

Professor Denbeaux and his students looked into the cases of 393 of the 558 Guantanamo detainees. More specifically, they looked into those cases where Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) were convened to limit the detainees ability to request habeas corpus, This is because per definition in the MCA, Military Combatants are excluded from habeas corpus rights. To the casual reader, this system seems fair. But a closer examination clearly shows more kangaroo court than clear cut justice.

In those cases where the government was willing forced to release the information about the CSRTs, Denbeaux’s report is damning.

The most important documents in this record were produced by the Government in response to orders by United States District Judges that the Department of Defense provide the entire record of the Combat Status Review Tribunal for review by counsel for at least 102 detainees. These are described as habeas-compelled “full CSRT returns.” Without these documents, it would only be possible to review the process promised. With the 102 “full CSRT returns,” this Report can also compare the process promised with the process provided.

The results of this review are startling. The process that was promised was modest at best. The process that was actually provided was far less than the written procedures appear to require.

The detainees were denied any right to counsel. Instead, they were assigned a “personal representative” who advised each detainee that the personal representative was neither his lawyer nor his advocate, and that anything that the detainee said could be used against him. In contrast to the absence of any legal representative for the detainee, the Tribunal was required to have at least one lawyer and the Recorder (Prosecutor) was recommended to be a lawyer. [my emphasis]

I can only urge anyone who simply wants to understand the process being used to deny people a fair chance to defend themselves in court to read and spread this report.

I won’t argue about the fact that many of the people might have been in Afghanistan; that many may have been fighting for the Taliban (who, as we might remember were the ligitimate government at the time.). I won’t argue about the fact that some of these people probably should justifiably be locked up and denied freedom. I won’t discuss the fact that the Afghan culture is seeped in traditions of revenge and score settling. I won’t even think of the number of scores that needed to be settled after almost 30 years of civil war.

But to assume that the American government is legitimately holding all of these people basically because some classified source says so? Um. Excuse me?

Let’s simply plug into another event in currently making headlines. (No, I mean neither Anna Nicole Smith nor Britney’s newfound talents in hair styling.) Let’s look at the wonderful job the intelligence agencies did leading up to the Iraq war; the job done so well that Scooter Libby is on trail for lying to cover up leaking information about it.

Now. Ask yourselves whether these same American intelligence organisations were better informed during those confusing times in Afghanistan during 2002 and 2003. Where those organisations any better than they were in developing Iraq information? Ask yourselves whether this administration is willing to own up to its mistakes. Ask yourselves why most of the evidence being presented is so ‘classified’ not even the defendants can see it.

If you do all that, I’m sure you’ll come to the same conclusion as I have as to why many of these people are in Guantanamo,

Wrong Place, Wrong Time, Welcome to Gitmo.


2 comments so far

  1. frecklescassie on

    I thought we were a country of laws and treaties and stuff.


  2. Teresa on


    Yeah. Funny story, it doesn’t work that way.

    Privciples sound nice and are strictly adhered to as long as they do not become inconvenient. As soon as they do…whoop…out the window.

    Kind of like babies. When they are embrios in a mother’s body, they are precious darlings who must be preserved at all costs. As soon as they are born, screaming and pooping and needing to eat and costing us money, they just don’t count.

    God, it would be nice to find a decent politician sometime soonish.

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