Thursday, September 13, 2012

The disgrace that is Guantanamo Bay

Conor Friedersdorf reflects on the death of a prisoner:

If the unjust incarceration of Adnan Latif inspired in conservatives even a fraction of the concern that they had for Scooter Libby; if liberals felt for him a small part of the outrage that they muster on Sandra Fluke's behalf; if President Bush had been a bit more careful in who he detained, or if President Obama had closed just the portion of Guantanamo Bay holding prisoners cleared by American intelligence agencies for release; if the federal judiciary were slightly less inclined to defer to dubious government claims in habeas cases; or if Congress were less derelict in its duty to preserve and protect the Constitution -- if any of those things were true, the Yemeni man might still be alive, and his death, a possible suicide, wouldn't disgrace us.

But he is dead.

Held for years on end without trial in a cage thousands of miles from home, he endured interrogations, indignities, and depression long enough to be cleared for release. The U.S. government kept him locked up for years longer. Despairing, he died this week, and even in death, his treatment evokes less outrage in Americans than the week's most controversial tweets.

This despite the fact that there are numerous reasonable doubts about his guilt.

In 2010, Judge Henry Kennedy looked at the Obama Administration's actions and decided that it was holding Latif unjustly. Kennedy ordered Latif's release, at which time President Obama and Eric Holder, who had sworn they'd close Gitmo, appealed in order to continue incarcerating one of the detainees that their own task force had already recommended for release. Sadly, they won on appeal, with Judge Janice Rodgers Brown writing the statist majority opinion in a 2-1 decision that, for reasons too complicated to get into here, has worrying implications for all of our habeas rights.

The Supreme Court declined to hear the case, putting Latif in this situation: No one had ever proved his guilt, multiple groups of experts had recommended his release, and yet he had no prospect of securing it, for there was no one left to whom he could appeal. If he committed suicide, can you blame him?

No. I couldn't blame him. It's a disgrace that we deny these people rights. It's a shame that no one seems to care.

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