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Detainee Watch

I don't think many people figure prisoners of war deserve access to the domestic courts of their enemies, or that civilian judges should interfere on the battlefield. But how many of the 600 "enemy combatants" being held in Afghanistan (and several thousand in Iraq) genuinely qualify as POWs? And how many are the same kind of vaguely identified terror "suspects" that the U.S. had been sending to Guantanamo -- until U.S. courts ruled that the Cuban outpost was de facto U.S. territory? And how will we ever know?

Charlie Savage writes in the New York Times: "The Obama administration has told a federal judge that military detainees in Afghanistan have no legal right to challenge their imprisonment there, embracing a key argument of former President Bush's legal team.

"In a two-sentence filing late Friday, the Justice Department said that the new administration had reviewed its position in a case brought by prisoners at the United States Air Force base at Bagram, just north of the Afghan capital. The Obama team determined that the Bush policy was correct: such prisoners cannot sue for their release....

"The closely watched case is a habeas corpus lawsuit on behalf of several prisoners who have been indefinitely detained for years without trial. The detainees argue that they are not enemy combatants, and they want a judge to review the evidence against them and order the military to release them.

"The Bush administration had argued that federal courts have no jurisdiction to hear such a case because the prisoners are noncitizens being held in the course of military operations outside the United States.....

"The Obama administration's decision was generally expected among legal specialists. But it was a blow to human rights lawyers who have challenged the Bush administration's policy of indefinitely detaining 'enemy combatants' without trials."

So what does this mean? Savage writes: "Jack Balkin, a Yale Law School professor, said it was too early to tell what the Obama administration would end up doing with the detainees at Bagram. He said some observers believed that the Obama team would end up making a major change in policy but simply needed more time to come up with it, while others believed that the administration had decided 'to err on the side of doing things more like the Bush administration did, as opposed to really rethinking and reorienting everything' about the detention policies it inherited because it had too many other problems to deal with."

By Dan Froomkin  |  February 23, 2009; 1:22 PM ET
Categories:  Looking Backward  
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So what's wrong with military commisssions to put radical, jihadist, Muslim terrorists on trial?

Why do liberals want to bring these killers of Amerian soldiers and innocent civilians on American soil? So liberals can give them free ACLU lawyers and try to make a mockery of our judicial system and our country?

This still has to do with rabid, foaming at the mouth Bush derangement syndrome and the belief that everything America does is bad and America is the cause of all the worlds problems. Liberals, stop coddling these radical Muslim, jihadist, Wahabbi killers, just because you hated President Bush, our brave American soldiers and America. I know you'll never understand why Saddam Hussein had to be taken out, but it happened and it was successful. The surge worked and Obama was DEAD wrong.

This isn't the place or time to be poltically correct, when our lives and existance are on the line.

Some of these radical Muslim terrorists were the masterminds behind the attack of Sept.11th 2001, killing 3,000 innocent American civilians and the attack on the USS Cole Oct. 2000, killing 17 US sailors.

Do the treasonous, seditious liberals hate their country so much that they want to see these jihadist, Muslim killers go free, so they can come back and kill again?

Liberals and Obama think they can win these evil killers hearts and minds with a little talk and a Kum Ba Ya song. Liberals, stop coddling these dnagerous killers just because you hated Bush, our brav American soldiers and and our country.

Treating terrorism as a law enforcement problem, like Bill Clinton did, was a big mistake and having them get away with henious acts, like Jimmy Carter did, lead to where we are today. A global war on terror. Us against them. Unlike the weak, wimpy, bleeding heart liberals, I want us to win this war. It's a matter of life OR death.

Posted by: jz211 | February 23, 2009 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Yea! Obama finally explores his inner dictator! Tyranny for all! Yea! I guess Bush WAS our greatest president after all, right?

Posted by: davidbn27 | February 23, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Why do liberals want to bring these killers of Amerian soldiers and innocent civilians on American soil? So liberals can give them free ACLU lawyers and try to make a mockery of our judicial system and our country?

I can't help but think someone stupid enough to not understand why these prisons are illegal is also someone stupid enough to not understand what the recoil is.



Kinda see a pattern emerging with all this WOT "genius" here, WOT!?

It's not quite genius, and it's kinda slow on the uptake...

First off, it's the idiots Brennan and Jones (late Scooter Cheney), advising Obama. Big surprise, more failure!

Secondly, it will have to go back to the courts, over and over, until they get it right.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | February 23, 2009 2:56 PM | Report abuse

jz211- As far as I (or you) can tell, none of those prisoners have been convicted of anything. It does'nt seem very "American" to want to kill these people without making sure their guilty of something.

Posted by: mwamp | February 23, 2009 2:57 PM | Report abuse

"jz211- As far as I (or you) can tell, none of those prisoners have been convicted of anything. It does'nt seem very "American" to want to kill these people without making sure their guilty of something."

What about Obama's missile strikes that "kill these people without making sure their guilty of something?"

Does that bother you too?

Posted by: bobmoses | February 23, 2009 3:14 PM | Report abuse

The Obama team determined that the Bush policy was correct: such prisoners cannot sue for their release....
Wow Froomkin must be pulling his pubic hair out of his head... Clearly doesn't like what's going on but he can't blame Bush for it.. what to do? what to do??

Posted by: sovine08 | February 23, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse


Killing someone on the battlefield is far different than torturing and killing someone once they are unarmed and in your custody. We do allow the police to use lethal force when someone is armed and threatening them, but once in custody we expect the police to treat them fairly.

Why are conservatives incapable of comprehending anything beyond rah, rah patriotism and a go get 'em mentality?

Anti-terrorism activity is fundamentally detective work and human intelligence which the armed forces are not very good at. Once you've definitively located the bad guys send in the special ops and predator drones, which seems to be working at taking out some al qaida and Taliban leadership in Pakistan. It also seemed to work when Patraeus actually started talking to the leaders of the bad guys in Iraq and paying them instead of just shooting at them.

Posted by: troyd2009 | February 23, 2009 3:53 PM | Report abuse

What I do not understand legally, is why we are not just holding the people we capture in Afghanistan as POWs or turn them over to the Afghan government? They must have some laws for being able to hold someone for acts of sedition.

Posted by: troyd2009 | February 23, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

This was a big disappointment for me. Obama campaigned to restore our country to the civilized behavior we agreed to and once were proud of. Locking prisoners up without charge or recourse does not measure up to that standard. It makes no difference what you call them: calling them "terrorists" doesn't mean it's now OK to do anything to them. Abandoning civilized behavior is wrong, it's wrong, and it's just wrong. And I thought Obama was ready and willing to change that.

Posted by: jpk1 | February 23, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

I have no doubt that a majority of the prisoners being held at Guantanamo, Bagram and elsewhere are vicious killing psychopaths intent on Death To America! BUT -- I'm equally sure that a fairly large percentage are innocent and/or swept up from being in the wrong place. All these torture, interrogation and internment policies naturally assume we "got the bad guys".

A thought experiment. Let's say the current population of Guantanamo consisted of 249 "bad guys" and your younger brother. You know he's innocent and just got on the wrong plane by accident since he's a chowderhead at times. Yet there is he, being tortured for his information and everyone around you screaming to "behead him like his pals did to us!" iAnd no one will let you even prove he just got on the wrong plane. Still think the Bush torture/interrogration rules are the right thing?

Posted by: DigiMark | February 23, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

jz211 wrote: "Do the treasonous, seditious liberals hate their country so much that they want to see these jihadist, Muslim killers go free, so they can come back and kill again?"

Yes jz211, the over 50% of the American population who are liberals and Democrats are treasonous and seditious and hate the country we live in. What a wonderfully intelligent and insightful comment.

Posted by: seattlite | February 23, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

The terrorists in Pakistan are plotting to overthrow the Pakistani government and/or subvert the Pakistani military in order to obtain nuclear weapons. If you're not concerned about the people currently in Pakistan currently working to get one or more nuclear weapons with which to attack the US, then you're part of the problem.

Posted by: dickdata | February 23, 2009 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Oh you naieve fools.
The USA couldn't in good conscience turn these prisoners/enemy combatants over to their home country, because their prisoner rules will result in them being tortured or killed...... so what is the better alternative?? Hold onto these bastards until more time passes, or release them to their home land... and then they will be dead on arrival?? Hmmmm.... which way will the liberal moral compass swing???

Posted by: alutz08 | February 23, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse

you may be off-base here kiddo (why not think about it?) when you begin, "...I don't think many people figure prisoners of war deserve access to the domestic courts of their enemies, or that civilian judges should interfere on the battlefield.."

sure, you were only rhetorically winding up to throw a reverse spinner, but think about your starting position.

much of the so-called "War On Terror" is an Orwellian word game to gain favorable PR, like the "War on Poverty" or "War on Drugs" or (our favorite) Carter's old MEOW Program on energy independence ("Moral Equivalent of War"). as you and others have pointed out, you can't have a "War" on some tactic ('terror') which can be adopted by any group of any size anywhere in countless multitude of forms -- just what the heck kind of 'uniform' or 'pow' status are you talking about here to be a legitimate 'War on Terror' pow?

much of so-called 'war on terror' against bad cats living among civilian population as an outlaw guerrilla faction. by their very nature they don't wear uniforms or conduct themselves as traditional 'enemy combatants' -- and apprehending them is more often a police action than military operation. since it is hard to know in advance whether someone accused of being a member of mafia or terrorist or rapist is guilty or not (gee, could the 'intell' be wrong or could some informer have turned a guy in to curry favor, obtain a bounty or avoid paying the guy some money he owed him?), there has to be a mechanism of law and process to sort out 'merely accused' from those 'reasonably suspected of being guilty' -- unless we all wish to live at constant risk to the mercy and whim of our neighbors and police and security forces, we had better insist on such safeguards as habeas corpus and other protections for ourselves and others.

when some 'pow' is from the mis-named 'War on Terror' and so-called 'battleground' is a neighborhood in a city rather than the Valley of Elah, don't be quick to dismiss our need for a legal process to safeguard our civil rights. recall that folks who flew into WTC, blew up Oklahoma City and exploded bombs in London were citizens of or lived in country involved -- but does that mean we need J. Edgar Hoover to be able to snatch up any American or anyone else he chooses for as long as likes and without legal recourse?

if the 'battleground' is in your own back yard, you better re-think your assumption you don't want civilian judges involved.

we don't mean this 'in a bad way' -- we just wonder if you and others are getting a little sloppy in your reasoning?

Posted by: ithejury | February 23, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

The majority of the people who were detained in Guantanamo and elsewhere, some who were held for years, have been released by American authorities. Why?
Could it be that these people were innocent? Were they just turned into the military for the bounty? Did they just happen to be in the wrong place? The fact that they have been released seems to imply that they shouldn't have been imprisoned in the first place, doesn't it? And, if so, doesn't that say something about the inefficiency of this system? That, maybe, it just wasn't smart?

Posted by: capemh | February 23, 2009 7:57 PM | Report abuse

After viewing the comments dealing with bringing the jihadists to our soil and trying them, I am struck by the irony of their positions. The United States has always represented a higher standard of civil rights than most other countries in the world,

The right of haebeus corpus has formed the bedrock of justice in this country since its inception and made us the envy of people all over the world. The right to face your accuser is not a concept limited to the US, it should be the universal right of any person(s). When we deny this fundamental due process, we stand as hypocrites in the eyes of the world.

Posted by: hadenuff1 | February 23, 2009 8:23 PM | Report abuse

jz211 says:

"So what's wrong with military commisssions to put radical, jihadist, Muslim terrorists on trial?"

You start with a statement that is a conclusion, that's what's wrong. Our recent history has shown that we often are imprisoning people who have done nothing, other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Being captured DOES NOT make them a terrorist. Being brown and Muslim DOES NOT make them a terrorist.

I shudder to think what would happen if people such as the posters here were in charge, and people who committed no crimes were being held without charge, indefinitely, while being subjected to abuse at the hands of their captors.


For all you who complain about access to legal recourse, maybe you should study a little juris prudence.

The idea is that one should ascertain whether there is just cause for imprisonment. That just cause should be able to be held up to the light of day and a level of scrutiny.

Absent that evidence, you have no right under the law to hold anyone.

Suspicion alone is not sufficient.

The greatest shame is that under bush's leadership, we have lowered the standards of the United States to those of the terrorists we disdain for their horrible acts.

we have met the enemy and he is us.

Posted by: ostrom808 | February 23, 2009 9:43 PM | Report abuse

I don't remember his name or exactly when it took place, but a number of years ago there was a man arrested when he tried to enter the US from Canada, and he had materials in his vehicle which he planned to use to commit a major terroristic bombing. He was tried in US courts, convicted, and is in the prison system here in this country.

And then there were the Oklahoma City bombers. They were tried and convicted in regular US courts as well. They had attorneys and were allowed to present evidence on their own behalf. Yet they didn't get away with anything.

Why is it so incredibly difficult to deal with the notion of trying Afghans or Yemenis or Saudis or whoever for their crimes in standard courts? Or in military courts, if that's better for some reason, but still allowing these people to be represented by attorneys, and if the evidence is not there that they were guilty of the charges, they can be sent home? And if they're guilty, why can't they be put in a US Supermax prison?

Why shouldn't Iraqis look at us as enemy combatants in their country? They didn't invite us there, and our being there has resulted in the deaths of over one hundred thousand of them. Even if Iraqis had been responsible for 9/11 -- which they weren't -- that's more than payback.

Posted by: sally1860 | February 23, 2009 10:06 PM | Report abuse

The status of the detainees is only problematic to those who insist upon inventing a new class of human which has no rights. If they are identified as POWs, there are rules which apply, or if they are civilian detainees, there are rules which apply. BushCo tried to create an extra-legal classification ("illegal enemy combatants") to allow them to be detained forever, tortured, or murdered by their captors with no apparent consequences.

It is unacceptable for the Obama administration to kick this can down the road. Everyone knows that recognizing the basic human rights of BushCo's detainees paves the way to the criminal proceedings against those who knowingly and enthusiastically engaged in crimes against humanity. We would all like to "move on", but not until the torturers and profiteering war-mongers are thrown in jail and divested of their ill-gotten gains. So let's get on with it.

Posted by: mgloraine | February 24, 2009 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Now, why do you think Bush kept suspected terrorists in prison indefinitely without trial, and tortured them to confess to crimes they didn't really commit? Not one detainee has a case against him that can be proved in a regular court of law. After seven years, not one person can be tried and convicted of having anything to do with 911, and we still haven't caught the supposed ringleader, Osama Bin Laden, who used to be a C.I.A. informant. Suppose it's all a myth invented by the Bushees to cover their own crime? There are too many questions for us to assume that Arabs were responsible for 911. No Arab believes it, not because they didn't want to cause us harm, but because they know that Arabs are incapable of pulling off the military strike of the century. A bunch of Bedouins living in caves has the power to bring a superpower like ours to our knees? I think not. There is a huge cover-up going on here. Obama doesn't know how to deal with it yet, but eventually, the truth will out.

Posted by: shaman7214 | February 24, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

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