Defying the Supreme Court; 'Ghost Prisoners,' Guantanamo and Due Process

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), January 17, 2005 | Go to article overview

Defying the Supreme Court; 'Ghost Prisoners,' Guantanamo and Due Process


Byline: Nat Hentoff, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The administration plans to help spend the re-elected president's additional political capital by keeping certain non-citizen suspected terrorists in prison without charges for what may be the rest of their lives. They will never be brought before a judge or a neutral fact-finder. This is yet another revision of this nation's rule of law.

As Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, a widely respected and independent expert on foreign affairs, said on Fox News Channel on Jan. 2: "A life in prison without even a trial is unheard of in this country and this proposal is a bad idea. We ought to have a very careful constitutional look at this." Moreover, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has pointed out that our global war against terrorism will not be over until all terrorist organizations with murderous global intentions are eliminated. It may take so long for such a day to come that these could be essentially life sentences for the imprisoned alleged terrorists.

Dana Priest of The Washington Post broke this story on Jan. 2, as she has broken a good many other stories on this administration's evasions of international and domestic law.

As she said the next day on National Public Radio, the administration's thinking is "they have hundreds of suspected terrorists who they do not want to go let free for fear that they will take up arms against the United States again, but [about] who[m] they don't have enough evidence to bring them to court.

"Nor," she added, "would they really want to bring them to court because the evidence would be aired publicly." But since the evidence against these prisoners wouldn't be sufficient to even bring them to court, on what basis in international law or our own standards of justice can the president justify this plan? Also, last June, the Supreme Court ruled that our detainees at Guantanamo Bay are entitled to have some form of due process, either in our federal courts or in a hearing before a neutral decision-maker. But the administration's new idea of how to deal with suspected terrorists condemns the prisoners at Guantanamo to be in legal limbo, thereby defying the Supreme Court.

Another way of keeping these prisoners indefinitely, the State Department has suggested, was described by Ms. Priest on NPR: "Why not move the large blocs of nationals (suspected of terrorism) from Saudi Arabia or Yemen or Afghanistan into newly-built prisons in those countries (that the United States would pay to construct)"? …

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