A panel from the Federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit looks at the evidence from the first "secret" case out of Guantánamo, and finds it lacking.
In the first case to review the government's secret evidence for holding a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a federal appeals court found that accusations against a Muslim from western China held for more than six years were based on bare and unverifiable claims. The unclassified parts of the decision were released on Monday.
With some derision for the Bush administration's arguments, a three-judge panel said the government contended that its accusations against the detainee should be accepted as true because they had been repeated in at least three secret documents.
The court compared that to the absurd declaration of a character in the Lewis Carroll poem "The Hunting of the Snark": "I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true."
"This comes perilously close to suggesting that whatever the government says must be treated as true," said the panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
The unanimous panel overturned as invalid a Pentagon determination that the detainee, Huzaifa Parhat, a member of the ethnic Uighur Muslim minority in western China, was properly held as an enemy combatant.
The panel included one of the court's most conservative members, the chief judge, David B. Sentelle.
More "judicial activism" like this would be welcome. Only about eight percent of the prisoners in Gitmo are suspected to be actual Al Qaeda fighters. Thus far, just one of the 680 held at the facility at the height of its capacity in May 2003 has been convicted. The Bush administration's approach to actual evidence against the people it has been detaning has thus far amounted to little more than "just trust us." It's a good thing the courts are asking for a bit more than that.