The prisoners at Guantanamo have been there longer than World War II lasted ...
Great opinion piece about Habeas Corpus in Jon Carroll's column in today's San Francisco Chronicle (and sfgate.com). Here's an excerpt:
Lakhdar Boumediene, born in Algeria, was arrested in Bosnia in October 2001 and charged with being part of a plot to blow up the U.S. Embassy there. He was almost immediately released by the Bosnian Supreme Court for lack of evidence, and then rearrested by American troops (evidence? That's what interrogation is for!) and shipped to the Guantanamo detention facility. He's still there today.Jon Carroll refers to nybooks.com -- there's a longer article there about the whole issue. He says it's very good. Stumble It!
Naturally, Boumediene has not received any kind of trial. His lawyers have not been allowed to see evidence against him. He is, like almost all the people at Guantanamo, a hearsay prisoner with an indefinite sentence, imposed arbitrarily by ... well, somebody. He is an enemy combatant because the Bush administration says he is. He may be a bad guy, but he may not be. He has served six years behind bars and has yet to be charged with any crime.
That's kind of illegal, say many people.
Boumediene wants a hearing. He and some other prisoners sued the government, and the case went to the Supreme Court. The case was decided in June. To quote Dworkin: "The Court held by a 5-4 vote that aliens detained as enemy combatants in Guantanamo have a constitutional right to challenge their detention in American courts. The decision frees none of them, some of whom have been held without trial for six years, but it makes it possible for them to argue to a federal district court judge that the administration has no factual or legal ground for imprisoning them. If that judge is persuaded, he must order their release."
As usual these days, Judge Anthony Kennedy was the swing vote. Almost everyone is looking for a way out of Guantanamo, now a national embarrassment as well as a disgrace; Kennedy and the other "liberal" judges (I use the quotes because the meaning of the word doesn't actually refer to any particular political philosophy anymore) decided that the way out had to be through the Constitution.
Dworkin again: "Senator John McCain called the decision 'one of the worst' in the country's history. The conservative press was horrified: The Wall Street Journal said that Kennedy had turned the Constitution into a 'suicide pact.' No one explained why it would destroy America to allow people who claim innocence of any crime, or threat, a chance to defend that claim before an American judge who is presumably just as worried about his family's security as the president is.
We're now involved in a war on terror, and all the rules must be rewritten. Of course, within our short history, the White House burned and Washington was sacked; the prisoners at Guantanamo have been there longer than the War of 1812 lasted. We have seen Ohio and Pennsylvania invaded by an army representing a new nation claiming the right to enslave all people of African descent; the prisoners at Guantanamo have been there longer than the Civil War lasted. We fought a two-front war against an enemy who murdered 200,000 Chinese citizens in six weeks and another enemy who murdered 6 million Jews in five years; the prisoners at Guantanamo have been there longer than World War II lasted.