Obama’s Gitmo policy: Franz Kafka, meet the Star Chamber

This really eery piece of news was in yesterday’s WaPo:

    An interagency review of all cases at Guantanamo Bay concluded that about 50 prisoners will have to be held in some form of prolonged detention without trial, because the evidence against them was obtained through the use of harsh interrogation methods or because its revelation in court would compromise intelligence gathering. The government says the detainees are too dangerous to release.

Let’s deconstruct this so everyone can see what’s been happening here:

    1. The U.S. authorities use “harsh interrogation methods” against someone held in their custody.
    2. They claim they have “reason to believe” that this person is “too dangerous to release”– but refuse to make their evidence for this public.
    3. Here’s the kicker: Precisely because this individual was tortured, and may reveal details of his torture if brought into any open courtoom, no public court hearing can ever be held for this person.
    (4. If the person had not been tortured, he might well have been brought into a courtroom.)

In other words, these 50 individuals who have been tortured by the U.S. authorities or people acting on their behalf now have to suffer the additional punishment of being detained indefinitely– precisely because they were tortured.
(If the only “problem” about trying them would be because disclosing the evidence against them could compromise collection methods, there would certainly be ways of dealing with that, including through private lawyers’ conferences, etc. Therefore I conclude that the fact of prior torture is an issue in all these cases, with or without the applicability of “intel collection methods” concerns.)
I realize that all this is a legacy from the Bush years of operating outside the law. But Obama promised us all something different.
If these people were tortured, then surely we all– U.S. citizens and others– need to have the full facts about this disclosed in an open courtroom. That way, we Americans can understand fully what was done in our name. And we can take all the steps necessary to ensuring our government never does it again.
And as six billion non-Americans around the world will see us disclosing the truth about these matters in an open, constitutional way, they will think the better of us for it– just as, when the South African authorities disclosed the whole truth about the ghastly deeds done by a predecessor regime there, people thought the better of them for it.

5 thoughts on “Obama’s Gitmo policy: Franz Kafka, meet the Star Chamber

  1. Mark Gaughan

    Helena,
    I totally agree with you! I’m going to copy and paste your piece into an e-mail to the White House and I will call there also. I’ll contact both of my Senators and my Congressman by phone.
    Mark Gaughan
    PS:Keep up the good work.

  2. Jack

    Unfortunately, this is just one more example of Obama being the most ineffectual president in memory (mine goes back to HST). All his nice sounding words before the election, and a few after he took office, have proved to be meaningless. Either he lied to us, or he is so spineless and ineffectual he has become just one more tool of the military-industrial complex, Wall Street, the big insurance and drug companies, and the Zionist Lobby.

  3. Joe in Australia

    Ouch. The US government formerly argued that constitutional protections don’t apply to people in Guantanamo. If they’re brought onto US soil it will remove this rather skimpy fig leaf. If the prisoners don’t have recourse to courts then the US will have cancelled habeas corpus. If they’re detained by government fiat then it will have re-introduced Bills of Attainder. This is very bad.

  4. epppie

    Will you stop making excuses for Obama? Whether or not the sins of Bush are involved, it is Obama who is CODIFYING those abuses. That is much much much worse, because it turns an aberration into the future definition of our Nation.
    Stop making excuses for Obama. Just stop. Now. Stop.

  5. bevin

    The politics of this are very clear: the Empire is coming home. All the enormities associated with the peripheries of Empire, the death squads in Colombia and Salvador, the disappearances in Honduras and Argentina, the detention without charge in Palestine, the torture in Iraq or Egypt…
    It is a long, sordid list and most of the practices have been domesticated for ages: the water torture employed in the Phillipines, had long been part of the slavetrader’s tool kit, there isn’t a city in America whose police force has not, at some time, tortured and abused prisoners.
    As to the Prison system: it is horrible to think of what has gone on there and what does go on still.
    The change is just that the aberrations are becoming respectable: all three branches of government now favour ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’ The idea of a Fair Trial, which had degenerated into ‘due process’ (aka ‘going through the motions’) has become quaint, an unmanly concept.
    Nor will things get better soon: the spectre of mass disorder is developing into a reality. A huge transfer of wealth is taking place and those who are gainers will do anything to protect their spoils.
    And there really isn’t anything new about it, it is just a return to the days of the smashing the IWW, lynchings and company thugs. Only now, the professionals, fully trained in the periphery, have taken over.

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