Posted by: sean | March 13, 2006

Habeas schmaebeas

Public Radio International’s This American Life recently ran a very interesting episode about Guantanamo Bay and habeas corpus, called Habeas Schmaebeas (real audio). They interview two people who have been released from the camp that’s not quite in Cuba and not quite in the US where over 500 people have been imprisoned without being charged with a crime. One of the people interviewed is a Pakestani man named Bader who was arrested there (and handed over to American authorities) for running a satirical Urdu language newspaper. Jack Hitt does a good job dispelling some of the misinformation about the people who are being held in Guantanamo Bay:

We’re told over and over that these prisoners are so terrible that we need an off-shore facility away from US law to hold them. But then there’s Bader. And every day, more storie like his are coming out, and they raise the question: Is Guantanamo a camp full of terrorists, or a camp full of mistakes?

He quotes Bush and Cheney, who had this to say about the matter:

Bush: “These are people that got scooped up off a battlefield attempting to kill U.S. troops. And I want to make sure, before they’re released, that they don’t come back to kill again.”

Cheney: “The people that are there are people we picked up on the battlefield, primarily in Afghanistan. They’re terrorists. They’re bomb makers. They’re facilitators of terror. They’re members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.”

Then he quotes Seton Hall University Law School’s Report on Guantanamo Detainees, which is based on written determinations the Government has produced for detainees that it has designated as enemy combatants, which were prepared after the Combatant Status Review Tribunals that began in 2004. The report’s findings were as follows:

1. Fifty-five percent (55%) of the detainees are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies.

2. Only 8% of the detainees were characterized as al Qaeda fighters. Of the remaining detainees, 40% have no definitive connection with al Qaeda at all and 18% are have no definitive affiliation with either al Qaeda or the Taliban.

3. The Government has detained numerous persons based on mere affiliations with a large number of groups that in fact, are not on the Department of Homeland Security terrorist watchlist. Moreover, the nexus between such a detainee and such organizations varies considerably. Eight percent are detained because they are deemed “fighters for;” 30% considered “members of;” a large majority ? 60% — are detained merely because they are “associated with” a group or groups the Government asserts are terrorist organizations. For 2% of the prisoners their nexus to any terrorist group is unidentified.

4. Only 5% of the detainees were captured by United States forces. 86% of the detainees were arrested by either Pakistan or the Northern Alliance and turned over to United States custody. This 86% of the detainees captured by Pakistan or the Northern Alliance were handed over to the United States at a time in which the United States offered large bounties for capture of suspected enemies.

5. Finally, the population of persons deemed not to be enemy combatants ? mostly Uighers ? are in fact accused of more serious allegations than a great many persons still deemed to be enemy combatants.

Another reports done on Guantanamo, which came out at about the same time as Seton Hall’s can be found here and here.

These reports confirm that the remarks that Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney have been making about how these people are the “worst of the worst” and have been “scooped up off a battle field” are patently false. The issue that is perhaps the most disconcerting is that 86 percent of Gitmo detainees were arrested by Pakistani or Northern Alliance forces at a time when the US was offering a large bounty for turning in suspected Taliban or al Qaeda members. One example of a flyer informing Afghans of the bounty read:

You can receive millions of dollars for helping the Anti-Taliban Force catch Al-Qaida and Taliban murderers. This is enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the rest of your life. Pay for livestock and doctors and school books and housing for all your people.

This is a copy of another flyer:

It seems obvious that most of these Pakistani and Afghan (and sometimes Chinese) dirt farmers being passed off as the “worst of the worst” were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. The US government doesn’t seemed too concerned about giving them a trial or habeas corpus rights, and I can say that being held incognito for years and tortured and humiliated on a daily basis is enough to turn even a poor Chinese dirt farmer into an anti-American terrorist.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: