[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 administrations 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, Americas 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 were 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
Our list starts with three fundamental tasks:
Restore Habeas Corpus
One of the new acts 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. Bushs 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
Agencys 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
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 Americas
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 administrations 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 countrys 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
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. Thats 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 Queens 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 Pentagons new rules for military tribunals, judges are allowed
to keep evidence secret from a prisoners 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
governments 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 Congresss
complicity) in the name of fighting terrorism.
(C) NYTimes. (Note: quoted in full and unedited)
Cheers all ..
More information about the Link