Detainee treatment

  • May 3, 2011

    Andrew Sullivan examines the efforts by right-wing media to push the claim that torture of certain detainees in U.S. custody helped lead the CIA to Osama bin Laden’s courier, who then led the CIA to the Pakistani compound where he had been living.  

    Sullivan says the claim has already “become a meme,” citing several comments from right-wing media pundits helping to create it. Sullivan also cites a piece by David Weigel, who writes that we should expect to hear more about how the Bush administration’s policy on interrogations produced results. “It may not be Republican candidates pointing this out,” Weigel writes. “They don’t need to. George W. Bush has a considerable amen chorus in the press, with former staffers like Marc Thiessen, Michael Gerson, and John Yoo writing regular columns about how the 43rd president was right.”  

    Sullivan continues, “Leave aside the horrifying fact that Republicans, seeking to score some ownership this triumph, would look to torture as their contribution. Why not the beefed up on-the-ground intelligence from 2005 on? That’s Bush’s legacy that Obama built on. Besides, there is no evidence that it played any part whatsoever."

    Sullivan also notes a piece by The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, who cites an article from The New York Times that “the turning point came when detainees being held in Guantánamo – not in the C.I.A.’s secret black-site prisons – revealed to American interrogators the pseudonym used by the key bin Laden courier, whom they also identified as a protégé of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.”

  • April 14, 2011
    Habeas Corpus after 9/11
    Confronting America's New Global Detention System
    Jonathan Hafetz

    By Jonathan Hafetz, a law professor at Seton Hall Law School who has litigated a number of leading national security habeas corpus cases.  

    Following his inauguration, President Obama ordered the closure of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay within one year. More than two years later, however, Obama’s plan to close Guantanamo is in shambles. More than 170 prisoners remain at Guantanamo, and new legislation makes it extremely difficult to transfer additional prisoners from the naval base. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently called the prospects for closure “very, very low,” and the administration is pressing ahead with new military commission trials at the base. In many ways, the United States is further from closing Guantanamo now than it was after Obama’s inauguration.

    Guantanamo has always been more than a prison. It is also the symbol of a new, alternative detention system that denies prisoners the full protections of America’s criminal justice system. Guantanamo’s continued existence reflects not merely America’s failure to close this notorious prison, but its acceptance of the larger system the prison embodies.

    Even as Obama vowed to close Guantanamo, he indicated that he would continue to use “military commissions,” pledging to reform the fatally flawed war crimes tribunals rather than end them. The administration’s decision to abandon the federal criminal prosecution of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other alleged 9/11 plotters in favor of military commissions demonstrates the power this alternative system exerts over U.S. counter-terrorism policy. Obama has likewise endorsed another key feature of Guantanamo: the indefinite detention of some terrorism suspects without trial. His recent executive order creating a new review board to periodically examine their cases demonstrates how deeply this practice has become institutionalized. The question, in short, is not whether the post-9/11 detention system will continue (it will), but what form it will take and how broadly it will sweep.