Friday, November 21, 2008

Mistakes Were Made

A federal judge has ruled in a habeas corpus hearing that the government's case against five Algerians held at Guantanamo Bay was so flimsy that they should be released, and he so ordered, according to the NY Times.

It was the first hearing on the government’s evidence for holding detainees at Guantánamo. The judge, Richard J. Leon of Federal District Court in Washington, said the government’s secret evidence in the case had been weak: what he described as “a classified document from an unnamed source” for its central claim against the men, with little way to measure credibility.

“To rest on so thin a reed would be inconsistent with this court’s obligation,” Judge Leon said. He urged the government not to appeal and said the men should be released “forthwith.”

Another case of a liberal judge appointed by President Clinton legislating from the bench? Not exactly:

Judge Leon, who was appointed by President Bush, ruled in 2005 that the men had no habeas corpus rights, and he had been expected to be sympathetic to the government in the current case.

As he read his decision in a quiet courtroom, he seemed to bridle at the Supreme Court’s ruling, saying its effect was “to superimpose the habeas corpus process into the world of intelligence gathering.”

He said his decision, which involved men first detained in Bosnia far from the war in Afghanistan, should not be read as a reflection on the strength of the cases against other detainees, more than 200 of whom have filed habeas corpus cases. “This is a unique case,” he said.

Still, there was a buzz in the gallery when he announced that the government had not proved its case against the five men. In urging the government not to continue to fight the case, he noted that an appeal could take as long as two years.

“Seven years of waiting for our legal system to give them an answer to a question so important is, in my judgment, more than plenty,” he said.

Imagine: a conservative federal judge, appointed by Bush, who clearly disagrees with the US Supreme Court decision granting habeas corpus rights to the detainees, still found the government's case appallingly weak. Seven years of being held without charge under abominable conditions is not only "more than plenty", it is also a deeply disturbing example of just how low this nation has been brought by the current administration and those who enabled that administration right from the start, as one of the defense attorneys pointed out:

Robert C. Kirsch, one of the six detainees’ lawyers from the law firm Wilmer Hale, said the case showed “the human cost of what can happen when mistakes are made at the highest levels of our government, and no one has the courage to acknowledge those mistakes.”

The timing of this case couldn't have been better. A new administration is preparing to take over, and its leader, President Elect Obama promised during the campaign that Guantanamo Bay would be closed and the detainees brought to the US. Judge Leon's ruling and opinion shows exactly why that promise must be kept by President Obama. We need to remind Mr. Obama of his promise, and use this case and the other cases which have issued since Boumediene came down to bring pressure on him to keep that promise. An executive order issued the afternoon of January 20, 2009 would be a fitting opening to the new administration.

Labels: , ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

" . . . when mistakes are made" doesn't really cover it, does it?

I fully expect Obama to act quickly to shut Guantanamo down, can't allow myself to anticipate consequences if he doesn't.

Sparkle Plenty

6:09 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home