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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Good news, bad news

This sounds at first hearing like good news:

A federal appeals court ordered the government yesterday to turn over virtually all its information on Guantánamo detainees who are challenging their detention, rejecting an effort by the Justice Department to limit disclosures and setting the stage for new legal battles over the government’s reasons for holding the men indefinitely.

But, I'm having second thoughts after reading this:

Then, later last month, the Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal from detainees claiming a right to challenge their detentions in federal courts through habeas corpus cases, a contention the administration has fought with some success in the courts and Congress.

The cases in the appeals court and the Supreme Court are both efforts by lawyers for the detainees to challenge the military’s decisions to hold the men.

The lawyers are pursuing habeas corpus rights because such cases would give federal judges far more power to review Pentagon decisions than the appeals court has to review the military tribunal actions. The lawyers have argued that in a 2005 law, Congress so limited the review permitted by the federal appeals court that the detainees need access to federal courts through habeas cases to get a fair review of their detentions.

When the Supreme Court said it would hear the Guantánamo case last month, its order made clear the justices would be carefully watching the appeals court decision as they consider broader Guantánamo issues. In an unusual comment, the Supreme Court’s order in June said, “it would be of material assistance” for the justices to receive arguments from the lawyers that take into account the appeals court ruling setting the rules for the review process.


It would appear this ruling at the Appeals Court has set the stage for the Supreme Court to uphold the military tribunals and deny habeas review. Furthermore, the article goes on to note:

The ruling also included significant victories for the government, including a decision allowing the Pentagon to limit the subjects that the lawyers can discuss with detainees and authorizing special Pentagon teams to read the lawyers’ mail and remove unauthorized comments.

The decision noted that Congress said the appeals court’s review of the combatant status hearings was limited to determining whether the Pentagon followed its own procedures, and whether an enemy-combatant finding was supported by a preponderance of the evidence.


Hmmm. That doesn't sound like a reasonable process to me.

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