Civil Liberties

'You Got the Wrong Result. Do It Again.'

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In response to criticism of the Defense Department's Combatant Status Review Tribunals by Stephen Abraham, a lawyer who was involved in the process as a reserve Army intelligence officer, "Pentagon officials say his account indicates that he misunderstood the purpose of the hearings," The New York Times reports. Evidently the purpose was not to arrive at the truth but to confirm the Pentagon's classification of detainees as enemy combatants. Abraham, a self-described conservative Republican, says he was troubled by the vague, unsubstantiated charges that often sufficed to keep men locked up at Guantanamo Bay. "Nobody stood up and said the emperor's wearing no clothes," he tells the Times. "The prevailing attitude was, 'If they're in Guantánamo, they're there for a reason.'" Abraham says he's not allowed to discuss case details, but the Times digs up a few examples of less-than-thorough inquiries from transcripts and federal court records:

In a hearing on Oct. 26, 2004, a transcript shows, one detainee was told that another had identified him as having attended a terrorism training camp.

The detainee asked that his accuser be brought to testify. "We don't know his name," the senior officer on the hearing panel said.

At another hearing, later reviewed by a federal judge, a Turkish detainee, Murat Kurnaz, was said to have been associated with an Islamic missionary group. He had also traveled with a man who had become a suicide bomber.

"It would appear," Judge Joyce Hens Green wrote in 2005, "that the government is indefinitely holding the detainee—possibly for life—solely because of his contacts with individuals or organizations tied to terrorism and not because of any terrorist activities that the detainee aided, abetted or undertook himself."

In a third hearing, an Afghan detainee said he had indeed been a jihadist—during the 1980s war against the Soviet Union, when a lot of Afghans were jihadists. Was that what the accusation against him meant, he asked, or was it referring to later, during the American war?

"We don't know what that time frame was, either," the tribunal's lead officer replied.

Abraham's main job was to oversee the database of evidence against detainees. The one tribunal in which he served as a panelist voted 3 to 0 against classifying a Libyan captured in Afghanistan as an enemy combatant, a decision that was reversed by another tribunal, also by a unanimous vote. "Anything that resulted in a 'not enemy combatant' would just send ripples through the entire process," Abraham says. "The interpretation is, 'You got the wrong result. Do it again.'"

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  1. Many problems seem to stem from fighting a non goverment enity.How do we treat people that claim tobelomg to no stste?The taliban fighters are POW and shoudl be held tii the of conflict.This means a surrender and peace treaty.If we caoght bin ladin tomorrow would we treat he as a POW or bring him to the stated,give him consul and a trail.I submit much evidance would not be allowed in trail and the US would want some keep secret.Also.I for one thought on 9/12/01 thee terriost had taken their best shot.They useed the crude wepon of planes and that will not be repeatable.I think their likely to do most damage overseas.The new security is a over reaction.Homeland Security[the term makes me cringe] is an excuse to take money and freedom.

  2. Guantanamo detention camps have no relation to protecting the US against terrorist threats. The purpose is now to justify and protect the President’s authority to hold ‘suspects’ indefinitely.

  3. The buck stops in the Oval Office. You’ll find the “enemy combatant” there. And yes, he should be held at Guantanamo indefinitely.

  4. The buck stops in the Oval Office. You’ll find the “enemy combatant” there. And yes, he should be held at Guantanamo indefinitely.

    …and we can question him using “enhanced interrogation techniques.” OH please, can we? 😉

  5. Guys, I’m being completely serious when I say that it’s probably not a good idea to talk about any sort of physical harm to a person under Secret Service protection. You never know who’s reading this forum. I know you guys would never actually do it, but as the article above shows, one doesn’t need any real evidence to put a person in Gitmo.

    Anyway, now I understand why they don’t want real trials for these guys: Because the cases against some of them are a joke.

    And yes, I’m aware that some of the people released from Gitmo were later recaptured. To be honest, I’m not the least bit surprised that an executive branch operating without oversight might fuck up. This is why I want judicial oversight of detentions.

  6. Addendum: I meant to say that some of the people released from Guantanamo were later recaptured on battlefields, fighting US forces. It may very well be that some dangerous people were released. And that doesn’t surprise me at all. In fact, it just reinforces the need for judicial oversight. Oversight tends to focus the mind and result in people doing a better job.

  7. thoreau,If they were captured on the battle field they are POW.They can be inturned for the durations of the war.They also musst be treated as such.We kept thousands on American soil during WW II.Many move here after the war.

  8. Why wouldn’t they runn oft to fight against US forces? After being held for no good reason in a kennel and given no recourse, it’s not surprising that some perfectly innocent men became hostile against the country that held them.

    And sure, maybe some of them were hostile to begin with, but Gitmo has probably created more hostiles than it has taken any out of action.

  9. Where was the Times in 2004 when this stuff was going on? Better late than never I guess.

  10. Those guys at Guantanamo are the worst of the worst. The Vice President’s wife said it on teevee. What more proof could you possibly need?

    I can assure you (as I have stated previously), if I were to be snatched up, imprisoned, and “aggressively interrogated” by a foreign government, I would make it my life’s work to carry out attacks against that nation and its citizens at each and every opportunity which might arise.
    I suppose I am surprised that more former “detainees” have not been actively fighting us.

  11. If they were captured on the battle field they are POW.They can be inturned for the durations of the war.They also musst be treated as such.

    It’s not that simple. You’re aPOW if your part of an organized fighting force, i.e., enemy army, navy. If you’re runing around with a grenade, a rifle, and a dream of re-establishing the caliphate, then you’re not a POW. What the heck you are and how to treat you has been the burning question for the last 6 years.

  12. Abdul-

    What if you’re handed over for a bounty by somebody who claims that you were running around with a grenade, a rifle, and a dream of re-establishing the caliphate?

    What if you’re captured because your name is similar to an alias used by somebody who engages in that sort of violent activity, and you bear a resemblance to him?

  13. You know, if I was minding my own business, and found myself kidnapped, transported to a humid hell-hole and imprisoned there for many years, interrogated for long hours with no idea if I’d ever be free again, I’d be tempted to take up arms against my captors should I ever get the chance to do so.

  14. What the heck you are and how to treat you has been the burning question for the last 6 years.

    Only to idiots that don’t like to follow the rules of war.

  15. If they were captured on the battle field they are POW.They can be inturned for the durations of the war.

    What war? The war against the Taliban, or the War on Terror?

    The former is over; the latter will never end. Unless we find a way for Terror to sign a peace treaty. So, either they should already have been released, or they’re POWs for life.

  16. Marcvs –

    usually penicillin or a broad spectrum antibiotic are good for treating burning questions.

    [ducks. runs off. pursued by bear]

  17. What war? The war against the Taliban, or the War on Terror?

    The former is over; the latter will never end

    What do you mean by “The former is over”?

  18. I think he meant the war against the Taliban, which have handed off to NATO. Of course if we are to get technical, I think the Korean war is still going on.

    I say we turn everyone loose, except for the ones we know to be legit. If they show back up on the battlefield. Shoot ’em.

    Tarrans post is the administration’s “trump” card, so they think. “If we let them go they will attack us becuse they hate us for what we’ve done to them.”

  19. We didn’t follow the rules by actually declaring war so why would we now start following the rules about how we treat prisoners in this undeclared war?

    We=US Govt (myself not included in that we).

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