Friday, June 30, 2006

Bush loses big on Guantánamo

Somehow, by the grace of Athena, the Supreme Court yesterday managed to do, for a change, the right thing on the matter of the men being held illegally at a U.S. prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba -- at least half a world away from the places from which they were seized.

You'll recall, mes amis, that the Bush administration had declared itself immune from the protocols of international and domestic law -- not to mention the Military Code of Justice -- in the matter of trials for the Guantánamo detainees. Because they were swept up as part of the so-called War on Terror -- which is being waged against the United States, according to the White House, not by governments but by individuals -- the administration contended that the rules by which our nation is bound in the conduct of warfare did not apply to those it deemed to be terrorists.

Yesterday, the High Court ruled that the show trials of detainees concocted by the administration were not legal, because they did not meet the minimum conditions laid out in Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, to which the U.S. is a signatory.

For its part, the Pentagon claims that the Court's ruling has no bearing on its practice of holding detainees indefinitely without charge, but that line of reasoning is errant on its face. If the show trials (or tribunals, as they are called) are not valid because they fail to meet the standards of international and Constitutional law, then surely detention absent habeas corpus should be struck down by the same decision. At least, that's your blogstress's reading of the matter, which relies more on augury than actual knowledge of the law.


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Bush loses big on Guantánamo (cont'd)

From Tim Golden in today's New York Times:

The Defense Department [asserted on Thursday] that the court's sweeping ruling against the tribunals did not undermine the government's argument that it can hold foreign suspects indefinitely and without charge, as "enemy combatants" in its declared war on terror.

Privately, though, some administration officials involved in detention policy — along with many critics of that policy — were skeptical that Guantánamo could or would go about its business as before. "It appears to be about as broad a holding as you could imagine," said one administration lawyer, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the ruling. "It's very broad, it's very significant, and it's a slam."
Golden reports that some administration officials had argued that the government should craft its rules for Guantánamo detentions to conform with Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. However, David Addington, Dick Cheney's present chief of staff -- and the real brains behind the administration's executive power-grab -- is said to have prevailed against the forces for good.

According to The New Yorker's Jane Mayer, who this week offers a telling portrait of the vice president's capo, former Secretary of State Colin Powell had some choice words for Addington, which he confided to colleagues who joined him for a Redskins game last December.
During the game, between the Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys, Powell spoke of a recent report in the Times which revealed that President Bush, in his pursuit of terrorists, had secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on American citizens without first obtaining a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as required by federal law.


According to someone who knows Powell, his comment about the article was terse. “It’s Addington,” he said. “He doesn’t care about the Constitution.”



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