The Detainee Report

Glenn Greenwald has a must-read post about John Yoo’s deeply dishonest Wall Street Journal op-ed (which I also wrote about, here and here). The lies, Glenn writes, serve a clear purpose: Without them, Yoo’s entire narrative falls apart.

… Yoo defends the right of the Bush administration to imprison people at Guantanamo indefinitely with no judicial review and condemns last week’s Supreme Court habeas corpus ruling as “judicial imperialism of the highest order.” To do so, Yoo asserts what have become the now-standard though still-blatant falsehoods on this issue.

Yoo, for instance, claims that the Supreme Court in Boumediene allows “an alien who was captured fighting against the U.S. to use our courts to challenge his detention.” But huge numbers of detainees in U.S. custody weren’t “captured fighting against the U.S.” at all. Many were taken from their homes. Others were just snatched off the street while engaged in the most mundane activities. Still others were abducted while in airports or at work.
Contrary to one of the core falsehoods spouted by people like John Yoo, a huge bulk of our “War on Terror” prisoners, including those at Guantanamo, were not “captured fighting against the U.S.” at all. While supporters of unlimited executive power incessantly claim that the War on Terror can’t be waged based on the premise that Terrorists are like criminals, many of the detainee apprehensions are identical to how accused criminals are captured, since — unlike actual wars of the past — they involve snatching people up while engaged in completely innocent activities and in civilian settings, not on battlefields while engaged in combat.

Yoo purposely uses falsehoods here because the way so many of these detainees are captured by the U.S. is what distinguishes them from detainees in past wars captured on actual battlefields. That’s precisely what makes the risk of erroneous detentions (or more malignantly-motivated detentions, such as that of Sami al-Haj) so high. And it’s that fact — along with the fact that, by the administration’s own claims, this is a “completely different war” that will last decades, not merely years — that makes the very idea of empowering our Government to imprison such people indefinitely, with no real process, so dangerous and tyrannical.

Yoo uses the same falsehood to legitimize the Bush administration’s position that the detainees at Gitmo do not qualify for, or deserve, habeus corpus rights:

The other deeply misleading claim in Yoo’s Op-Ed is even more transparent. He characterizes the Court’s decision as “grant[ing] captured al Qaeda terrorists the exact same rights as American citizens to a day in civilian court.” What minimally self-respecting law professor would be willing to make this claim with a straight face?

The whole point of the habeas corpus right is that without a meaningful hearing, we don’t know if the individuals our Government is imprisoning are really “al Qaeda terrorists” or something else. That ought to be too basic even to require pointing out. As this recent superb McClatchy article documents, scores of individuals detained at Guantanamo for years weren’t “Al Qaeda terrorists” — or any other kind of terrorists — at all. …

Glenn gives several examples of individuals who fell into U.S. custody while simply going about their business, far from the battlefield and doing nothing related to terrorism. And as you’ll see when you look at the links, these kidnappings — because essentially, that’s what they were — were reported in a wide variety of news outlets, from the Columbia Journalism Review to the BBC. They were not buried in obscure places, or concentrated in one or two publications. Of course, the American mass media has not, for the most part, picked up these stories, but that is certainly not for lack of knowing they were — and are — out there.

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