In today's New York Times there is an article about the habeas corpus hearings involving Guantanamo detainees that were mandated by the recent Supreme Court decision of Boumediene v. Bush. While this is a good first step and a glimpse of hope for those locked away in the Cuban enclave wrestled from the small Latin nation to our south in the settlement of the Spanish-American War, the hearings themselves are markedly different from anything that would take place on sovereign United States soil.
To begin with, the lawyers for the six Algerian former residents of Bosnia are not allowed to discuss the evidence with their clients. Obviously this greatly hinders the defense's ability to mount a defense for their clients, as they cannot tell their clients what they are being charged with or why. How can someone give an alibi or refute the charges against him without first being told what he did wrong? If the United States is worried that by allowing the defendants to hear/see the evidence against them they will be privy to classified information they previously did not know (such as plans by terrorists to bomb a Sarejevo U.S. Embassy), how airtight is the government's case? If you accuse someone of planning to bomb the embassy, then tell them they cannot see the proof because it may compromise national security - despite the fact that you are accusing that very person with creating the proof (i.e. the plans to bomb the embassy) - then clearly you are not sure beyond a reasonable doubt that this person is guilty and thus should allow him to defend himself in a court of law.
Even more disturbing is the fact that the government has changed their story regarding the six men. They were first accused of planning to bomb the Sarejevo U.S. Embassy, but now the DoJ says that they are being held for other reasons (what other reasons we do not know). Usually when a victim/witness changes their story in the courtroom, they are discredited. Of course, if I were to say that the government has discredited themselves by changing their story in the courtroom, I would be called a terrorist sympathizer, America hater, or, even worse, unpatriotic. Thankfully we have the Patriot Act to make sure that everything I say/do can be tracked and my wireless phone company can hand over private documents without a warrant regarding my phone activity to the government and not be prosecuted, so don't worry America. You're safe from critical thinking and individualism.
The sad fact is, however, that even if these six men are determined to be no threat to the U.S. and are ordered to be released, they won't be going anywhere soon. Back in October the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. District blocked the release of seventeen Chinese Muslims after they were determined to no longer pose a threat to the U.S. and, thus, could not be held as "enemy combatants." Despite federal judge Ricardo M. Urbina's order to release the men, the Bush Administration urged the D.C. Circuit court to have the men remain in custody so the government could rehash their case, which they had just lost. The men remain in custody despite having been ordered to be released.
Guantanamo Bay and the loosely defined and even more loosely designated term "enemy combatant" will be a stain on this country's history similar to the way that Japanese internment was during World War II. Nearly all historians and legal experts would agree that Korematsu v. United States was not only a grave mistake, but embarassing as well. Similarly, the decision to utilize Gitmo to such an extent will prove to be a mistake and will be another moment in U.S. history (hopefully in history and not the future) that shows a grave error on the part of the national leadership at the time. Peace.
Photos - Entrance to Camp Delta at Gitmo (commons.wikimedia.org), Detainees arriving at Camp X-Ray at Gitmo (en.wikipedia.org)