Politics · WTF?

No Point in Gitmo Anymore

The BBC reports:

Foreign suspects held in Guantanamo Bay have the right to challenge their detention in US civilian courts, the US Supreme Court has ruled. […]

The Military Commissions Act (MCA) passed in 2006 removed the right of habeas corpus and set up tribunals to try detainees who were not US citizens.

This is, of course, excellent news for human rights, and I’m glad the SCOTUS has done the Right Thing. Presumably this also means that the original reason for keeping these people in Guántanamo—in Cuba, and therefore outside the jurisdiction of US law—is gone.

Now, I’m sure that even now, a bunch of people are complaining about how the detainees in Guántanamo are terrorists and how we shouldn’t be coddling them.

I don’t doubt that a lot of the detainees are, in fact, enemy fighters, or terrorists, or generally supporters of America’s enemies, people who ought to be locked away for a long time. But the thing is, we’re supposed to have this thing called justice. And justice, being blind, applies to everyone, whether they’re pillars of the community or murderous scumbags. It’s one of those things that defines a civilized society.

As I understand the article, this ruling simply restored the right of habeas corpus to prisoners in Gitmo. For those who’ve forgotten, habeas corpus is when the government has to show that it has a good reason for keeping someone locked up. Basically, if a cop arrests you for looking like a drug dealer, he then has to prove that there’s good reason to believe that you really are a drug dealer, or else let you go.

Which brings me to the part that blew my mind:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who voted against the ruling, warned that “it sets our military commanders the impossible task of proving in a civilian court … that evidence supports the confinement of each and every prisoner”.

WTF? Did he just say that it’s too much trouble to have to show to a court that every person currently locked up, should be locked up? I hope the reporter got this wrong, because the alternative is that we have an insane Supreme Court justice.

2 thoughts on “No Point in Gitmo Anymore

  1. If you haven’t listened to it (or read the transcript), I highly recommend the This American Life program on the topic. A transcript and recording can be found here. Even if you’re highly skeptical and dump out any claims by the detainees that aren’t verifiable, it’s a very powerful program.

    The most heart breaking point for me was when one of the detainees describes being held with a bunch of terrified guys in Afghanistan, wondering what would happen. Then he describes realizing that he was being handed over to the Americans and telling the people around him that he knows it’s going to be OK: I lived in so many places, like Europe and England and Germany and France, but the difference was in the States, everywhere you go, they welcome you. Like, when you go into supermarkets, everybody goes like, “How you doing?” and everything. That’s the thing that was in my mind. I was like, please, oh, everything’s going to be fine. They’re gonna understand.

    Talk about pissing away your political capital.

  2. Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve just listened to both the original 2003 broadcast and the 2007 edition (I had yard work to do and errands to run). Quite interesting, but depressing.

Comments are closed.