We have committed at least as great atrocities against others - many of them just as innocent as so many who died on September 11th, 2001 - in the name of the national security we not only didn't have then but have even less of today. That we operate anything like Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, or many other politically-oriented prisons like those Jose Padilla is held in as well as the countless "secret" prisons throughout the world does more than endanger us; it betrays absolutely everything that this country and we, its people, are supposed to stand for.
From The New York Times Op/Ed page Wednesday (June 6, 2007):
Ever since President Bush rammed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 through Congress to lend a pretense of legality to his detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, we have urged Congress to amend the law to restore basic human rights and judicial process. Rulings by military judges this week suggest that the special detention system is so fundamentally corrupt that the only solution is to tear it down and start again.Read the rest here (no subscription required).
The target of the judges’ rulings were Combatant Status Review Tribunals, panels that determine whether a prisoner is an “unlawful enemy combatant” who can be tried by one of the commissions created by the 2006 law. The tribunals are, in fact, kangaroo courts that give the inmates no chance to defend themselves, allow evidence that was obtained through torture and can be repeated until one produces the answer the Pentagon wants.
On Monday, two military judges dismissed separate war crimes charges against two Guantánamo inmates because of the status review system. They said the Pentagon managed to get them declared “enemy combatants,” but not “unlawful enemy combatants,” and moved to try them anyway under the 2006 law. That law says only unlawful combatants may be tried by military commissions. Lawful combatants (those who wear uniforms and carry weapons openly) fall under the Geneva Conventions.
If the administration loses an appeal, which it certainly should, it will no doubt try to tinker with the review tribunals so they produce the desired verdict. Congress cannot allow that. When you can’t win a bet with loaded dice, something is wrong with the game.
There is only one path likely to lead to a result that would allow Americans to once again hold their heads high when it comes to justice and human rights. First, Congress needs to restore the right of the inmates of Guantánamo Bay to challenge their detentions. By the administration’s own count, only a small minority of the inmates actually deserve a trial. The rest should be sent home or set free.