[LINK] O/T NYTimes editorial 'close the Guantánamo camp'

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Mon Mar 5 01:50:38 AEDT 2007

The Must-Do List 
Published: March 4, 2007

The Bush administration’s assault on some of the founding principles of 
American democracy marches onward despite the Democratic victory in the 
2006 elections. The new Democratic majorities in Congress can block the 
sort of noxious measures that the Republican majority rubber-stamped. But 
preventing new assaults on civil liberties is not nearly enough.

Five years of presidential overreaching and Congressional collaboration 
continue to exact a high toll in human lives, America’s global reputation 
and the architecture of democracy. Brutality toward prisoners, and the 
denial of their human rights, have been institutionalized; unlawful 
spying on Americans continues; and the courts are being closed to legal 
challenges of these practices.

It will require forceful steps by this Congress to undo the damage. A few 
lawmakers are offering bills intended to do just that, but they are only 
a start. Taking on this task is a moral imperative that will show the 
world the United States can be tough on terrorism without sacrificing its 
humanity and the rule of law.

Today we’re offering a list — which, sadly, is hardly exhaustive — of 
things that need to be done to reverse the unwise and lawless policies of 
President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Many will require a 
rewrite of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, an atrocious measure 
pushed through Congress with the help of three Republican senators, Arlen 
Specter, Lindsey Graham and John McCain; Senator McCain lent his moral 
authority to improving one part of the bill and thus obscured its many 
other problems.


Our list starts with three fundamental tasks:

Restore Habeas Corpus 

One of the new act’s most indecent provisions denies anyone Mr. Bush 
labels an “illegal enemy combatant” the ancient right to challenge his 
imprisonment in court. The arguments for doing this were specious. Habeas 
corpus is nothing remotely like a get-out-of-jail-free card for 
terrorists, as supporters would have you believe. It is a way to sort out 
those justly detained from those unjustly detained. It will not “clog the 
courts,” as Senator Graham claims. Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the 
Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has a worthy bill that 
would restore habeas corpus. It is essential to bringing integrity to the 
detention system and reviving the United States’ credibility. 

Stop Illegal Spying 

Mr. Bush’s program of intercepting Americans’ international calls and e-
mail messages without a warrant has not ceased. The agreement announced 
recently — under which a secret court supposedly gave its blessing to the 
program — did nothing to restore judicial process or ensure that 
Americans’ rights are preserved. Congress needs to pass a measure, like 
one proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein, to force Mr. Bush to obey the 
law that requires warrants for electronic surveillance.

Ban Torture, Really 

The provisions in the Military Commissions Act that Senator McCain 
trumpeted as a ban on torture are hardly that. It is still largely up to 
the president to decide what constitutes torture and abuse for the 
purpose of prosecuting anyone who breaks the rules. This amounts to 
rewriting the Geneva Conventions and puts every American soldier at far 
greater risk if captured. It allows the president to decide in secret 
what kinds of treatment he will permit at the Central Intelligence 
Agency’s prisons. The law absolves American intelligence agents and their 
bosses of any acts of torture and abuse they have already committed. 


Many of the tasks facing Congress involve the way the United States takes 
prisoners, and how it treats them. There are two sets of prisons in the 
war on terror. The military runs one set in Iraq, Afghanistan and 
Guantánamo Bay. The other is even more shadowy, run by the C.I.A. at 
secret places.

Close the C.I.A. Prisons 

When the Military Commissions Act passed, Mr. Bush triumphantly announced 
that he now had the power to keep the secret prisons open. He cast this 
as a great victory for national security. It was a defeat for America’s 
image around the world. The prisons should be closed.

Account for ‘Ghost Prisoners’ 

The United States has to come clean on all of the “ghost prisoners” it 
has in the secret camps. Holding prisoners without any accounting 
violates human rights norms. Human Rights Watch says it has identified 
nearly 40 men and women who have disappeared into secret American-run 

Ban Extraordinary Rendition 

This is the odious practice of abducting foreign citizens and secretly 
flying them to countries where everyone knows they will be tortured. It 
is already illegal to send a prisoner to a country if there is reason to 
believe he will be tortured. The administration’s claim that it 
got “diplomatic assurances” that prisoners would not be abused is 

A bill by Representative Edward Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, would 
require the executive branch to list countries known to abuse and torture 
prisoners. No prisoner could be sent to any of them unless the secretary 
of state certified that the country’s government no longer abused its 
prisoners or offered a way to verify that a prisoner will not be 
mistreated. It says “diplomatic assurances” are not sufficient.


Congress needs to completely overhaul the military prisons for terrorist 
suspects, starting with the way prisoners are classified. Shortly after 
9/11, Mr. Bush declared all members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban to 
be “illegal enemy combatants” not entitled to the protections of the 
Geneva Conventions or American justice. Over time, the designation was 
applied to anyone the administration chose, including some United States 
citizens and the entire detainee population of Gitmo.

To address this mess, the government must:

Tighten the Definition of Combatant 

“Illegal enemy combatant” is assigned a dangerously broad definition in 
the Military Commissions Act. It allows Mr. Bush — or for that matter 
anyone he chooses to designate to do the job — to apply this label to 
virtually any foreigner anywhere, including those living legally in the 
United States.

Screen Prisoners Fairly and Effectively 

When the administration began taking prisoners in Afghanistan, it did not 
much bother to screen them. Hundreds of innocent men were sent to Gitmo, 
where far too many remain to this day. The vast majority will never even 
be brought before tribunals and still face indefinite detention without 

Under legal pressure, Mr. Bush created “combatant status review 
tribunals,” but they are a mockery of any civilized legal proceeding. 
They take place thousands of miles from the point of capture, and often 
years later. Evidence obtained by coercion and torture is permitted. The 
inmates do not get to challenge this evidence. They usually do not see it.

The Bush administration uses the hoary “fog of war” dodge to justify the 
failure to screen prisoners, saying it is not practical to do that on the 
battlefield. That’s nonsense. It did not happen in Afghanistan, and often 
in Iraq, because Mr. Bush decided just to ship the prisoners off to Gitmo.


Prisoners designated as illegal combatants are subject to trial rules out 
of the Red Queen’s playbook. The administration refuses to allow lawyers 
access to 14 terrorism suspects transferred in September from C.I.A. 
prisons to Guantánamo. It says that if they had a lawyer, they might say 
that they were tortured or abused at the C.I.A. prisons, and anything 
that happened at those prisons is secret.

At first, Mr. Bush provided no system of trial at the Guantánamo camp. 
Then he invented his own military tribunals, which were rightly 
overturned by the Supreme Court. Congress then passed the Military 
Commissions Act, which did not fix the problem. Some tasks now for 

Ban Tainted Evidence 

The Military Commissions Act and the regulations drawn up by the Pentagon 
to put it into action, are far too permissive on evidence obtained 
through physical abuse or coercion. This evidence is unreliable. The 
method of obtaining it is an affront. 

Ban Secret Evidence 

Under the Pentagon’s new rules for military tribunals, judges are allowed 
to keep evidence secret from a prisoner’s lawyer if the government 
persuades the judge it is classified. The information that may be 
withheld can include interrogation methods, which would make it hard, if 
not impossible, to prove torture or abuse. 

Better Define ‘Classified’ Evidence 

The military commission rules define this sort of secret evidence as “any 
information or material that has been determined by the United States 
government pursuant to statute, executive order or regulation to require 
protection against unauthorized disclosure for reasons of national 
security.” This is too broad, even if a president can be trusted to 
exercise the power fairly and carefully. Mr. Bush has shown he cannot be 
trusted to do that. 

Respect the Right to Counsel 

Soon after 9/11, the Bush administration allowed the government to listen 
to conversations and intercept mail between some prisoners and their 
lawyers. This had the effect of suspending their right to effective legal 
representation. Since then, the administration has been unceasingly 
hostile to any lawyers who defend detainees. The right to legal counsel 
does not exist to coddle serial terrorists or snarl legal proceedings. It 
exists to protect innocent people from illegal imprisonment.


Beyond all these huge tasks, Congress should halt the federal 
government’s race to classify documents to avoid public scrutiny — 15.6 
million in 2005, nearly double the 2001 number. It should also reverse 
the grievous harm this administration has done to the Freedom of 
Information Act by encouraging agencies to reject requests for documents 
whenever possible. Congress should curtail F.B.I. spying on nonviolent 
antiwar groups and revisit parts of the Patriot Act that allow this 

The United States should apologize to a Canadian citizen and a German 
citizen, both innocent, who were kidnapped and tortured by American 

Oh yes, and it is time to close the Guantánamo camp. It is a despicable 
symbol of the abuses committed by this administration (with Congress’s 
complicity) in the name of fighting terrorism.

(C) NYTimes. (Note: quoted in full and unedited)

Cheers all ..
Stephen Loosley
Victoria, Australia

More information about the Link mailing list