The New York Times on March 8, 2009 featured an article entitled “Obama Ponders Outreach to Elements of Taliban.” As far as I can tell, the reactions to this story have focused on Obama’s attempts to work with some parts of the Taliban. The bigger story here, however, has been overlooked.
Some excerpts from this article accompanied by my commentary in italics, followed by some other relevant source materials:
“The president went on to say that ‘we don’t torture’ and that ‘we ultimately provide anybody that we’re detaining an opportunity through habeas corpus to answer to charges.’
So you have a right to challenge your detention, “ultimately.” Be warned then, you could wait a very long time. Ultimately you have a right, but in the long run, as they say, we’re all dead. Obama’s a constitutional lawyer by training. It’s a bit disturbing that he would qualify a right such as habeas corpus this way. And, by the way, there’s yet another qualification.
“Aides later said Mr. Obama did not mean to suggest that everybody held by American forces would be granted habeas corpus or the right to challenge their detention. In a court filing last month, the Obama administration agreed with the Bush administration position that 600 prisoners in a cavernous prison on the American air base at Bagram in Afghanistan have no right to seek their release in court.
“Instead, aides said Mr. Obama’s comment referred only to a Supreme Court decision last year finding that prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have the right to go to federal court to challenge their continued detention.”
If you’re at GITMO ultimately you can challenge your detention. But if you’re one of the hundreds (who have been and are being tortured, some murdered by torture, such as the taxi driver Dilawa r) at Bagram you’re out of luck because the Obama Administration says that you have no habeas corpus rights - not now, and not ultimately either.
“Mr. Obama signaled that those on the left seeking a wholesale reversal of Mr. Bush’s detainee policy might be disappointed.”
Evidently, those who uphold one of the sacrosanct rights the violation of which precipitated the American Revolution - King George’s suspension of the “Great Writ” of Habeas Corpus – are now “those on the left.” Those who don’t consider habeas corpus rights core principles of law are therefore those right thinking Americans on the right and in the center. Since members of the political right are proud of being the very most patriotic among us, it only stands to reason that such great patriots should regard as dispensable the Great Writ in the US Constitution, a due process right so fundamental that it dates from almost 900 years ago to the Magna Carta, and a right so critical that its absence unmistakably marks a tyranny.
“Mr. Obama said that by the time he got into office, the Bush administration had taken ‘steps to correct certain policies and procedures after those first couple of years’ after the Sept. 11 attacks.”
The abuses were corrected within a “couple years.” Now that’s some news. No one on the left, right, or center has ever made that claim before. Let’s see what Obama’s evidence for that is…
“[Obama credited not Mr. Bush but the former Central Intelligence Agency director Michael V. Hayden and the former director of national intelligence Mike McConnell, who ‘really had America’s security interests in mind when they acted, and I think were mindful of American values and ideals.’”
The proof: they "really had America's security interests IN MIND." They corrected illegal practices by being "MINDFUL of American values and ideals."
It’s not what you do. It’s what you claim that you were THINKING when you did it.
Speaking of what you do: what do we know about what Hayden and McConnell have done?