Barack Obama, Eric Holder and Leon Panetta are all lawyers, And Holder and Panetta both work for Obama. Wouldn't that suggest that they would agree on really important issues - at least in public?
Well, apparently they don't. And Obama's recent interview with the New York Times editorial board provides lots of examples.
During that session, President Obama stated categorically:
"We ultimately provide anybody that we're detaining an opportunity through habeas corpus to answer to charges."
Then how do we explain the conflicting position taken by the President's Attorney General, Eric Holder, and the Department of Justice he runs?
In a filing in federal court, lawyers from Obama's DOJ said that detainees held at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan have no legal right to challenge their detention in U.S. courts. That's exactly the position taken by George W. Bush. And it's not what the president told the New York Times.
Human rights advocacy groups argue that Bagram detainees should have the same rights as Guantanamo detainees because they are de facto under U.S. control.
The U.S. government is holding more than 600 prisoners at Bagram. Some claim they are victims of "extraordinary rendition" by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), while many more say they have been tortured and abused at the facility just outside Kabul.
Back in early January, the ACLU filed court challenges to the Bush-era policy on behalf of four detainees taken to Bagram from outside Afghanistan. That policy, based on the Supreme Court's Boumediene decision, is now being reviewed by a U.S. Court of Appeals.
In that landmark case, the Supreme Court rejected the Bush administration's position that the detainees held at Guantánamo had no right to challenge the legality of their detention in U.S. courts. The ACLU - and many constitutional scholars -- now claim that the same right must be extended to the roughly 600 detainees held in U.S. custody at Bagram, many of whom have been held for years without access to legal counsel or the courts.
"The Obama administration did the right thing by ordering Guantánamo closed. But a restoration of the rule of law and American ideals cannot be achieved if we allow 'other Gitmos' to be maintained around the globe," says Anthony D. Romero, head of the ALCU.
This issue is likely to generate even more contention in coming months, as Obama deploys thousands of additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan and a 60-million-dollar expansion doubles the capacity of the Bagram detention center.
Bagram was set up by the U.S. military after the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001. Like Guantánamo, it was designed to be out of the reach of U.S. courts - a legal black hole - during the so-called "war on terror," which lacks geographical or durational boundaries.
Like Guantánamo, it holds individuals from all over the world, including locations where there are no combat operations taking place.
Like Guantánamo, it holds terrorism suspects who were not captured on any battlefield.
Like Guantanamo, it houses victims of the Bush administration's extraordinary rendition program.
And like Guantánamo, there are well-documented reports of serious prisoner mistreatment and torture at Bagram.
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