Guantanamo Bay Tribunals Posted by: Jon Henke
on Monday, June 20, 2005
One of my longstanding beefs with the Bush administration has been their utter ineptitude at presenting their own case. Today, via Michelle Malkin, we find evidence that the ineptitude has plumbed new depths. Just days after Bill Clinton, in a fair and cogent analysis of the problem, notes that Gitmo "either needs to be closed down or cleaned up", we find that—oh did we forget to mention this—the required POW status Tribunals have beengoing on...
The Department of Defense, working through the National Security Council interagency process, established procedures that would provide appropriate legal process to these detainees, procedures that go beyond what is required even under the Geneva Conventions. These included combatant status review tribunals to confirm that, in fact, each individual is, in fact, an unlawful enemy combatant. Every detainee currently at Guantanamo has received such a hearing. As a result, some 38 individuals were released.
Something you think they might have mentioned these past few years. Repeatedly.
In Hamdan V Rumsfeld, the Judge ruled that "the government must convene a competent tribunal (or address a competent tribunal already convened) and seek a specific determination as to Hamdan's status under the Geneva Conventions. Until or unless such a tribunal decides otherwise, Hamdan has an must be accorded the full protections of a prisoner-of-war."
A description of the CSRT (combatant status review tribunal) procedures can be read here. More here. It seems to me to be generally consistent with Geneva Convention requirements, albeit a couple years too late and lacking in some transparency I'd like to see. Others disagree, believing "the new hearings fail to satisfy the Supreme Court’s rulings, and are otherwise inadequate to meet basic requirements of national and international law".
Well, perhaps. But the interesting thing is that tribunals have occurred, even as critics demanded due process for the prisoners. All of which leaves me wondering whether we need (1) much better administration PR, (2) more transparency at Guantanamo Bay and other US military prisons, or (3) both (1) and (2).
It occurs to me that many Republicans think we just need more of (1), while Democrats are most anxious for (2). For my part, I'd be happiest if the Bush administration would be more transparent about abiding by the law...and then trumpet it loudly, at every opportunity.
That might require some actual transparency at military prisons, but so long as we're abiding by the law, then we have no reason to cloak our military prisons from international observation. Indeed, if we are fulfilling our Geneva Convention obligations, then we must provide that transparency. All of which is not a problem if we have nothing to hide.
Legal rights: Supreme Court ruled in June 2004 that detainees can contest their detention. Pentagon has reviewed the illegal-combatant status of all detainees and granted them access to private lawyers.
You probably didn’t know this either. The source was DoD. It was in a little box in USA Today with an op/ed by Donald Rumsfeld.
You’d think, given the level of rhetoric about Gitmo, that USA Today might have featured the point instead of burying it.
Your suggestion that better PR and or GITMO transparency will necessarily satisfy the Administration’s GITMO critics misses the problem of media bias. No amount of PR will overcome the MSM’s hostility to the Administration, nor will "transparency" mitigate the media’s (and the left’s) ignorance of the rules of war.
The left wants the GWOT prosecuted as a crime. This is what separates (mostly) the left, and the right—which supports the President’s efforts to defeat the al Qaeda (and their ilk) terrorists.
I think that Forbes up above is right. There’s a loud, vocal, and influential group that are absolutely incontrovertibly convinced that the GWOT is a matter for law enforcement only. An example would be Katrina Van Den Heuvel. She said as much on the Chris Matthews program on Sunday.
My own feeling is that I wouldn’t want a law enforcement organization that would have the kinds of powers necessary to successfully prosecute the War on Terror. It would need to be supranational, well-armed, and able to move quickly. To whom would such a police force answer?