Friday, September 17, 2004

CIVIL LIBERTIES: Military Injustice

CIVIL LIBERTIES: Military Injustice

The administration's last ditch efforts to restore legitimacy to the
prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have hit a major snag. After two
years of delay, the Bush administration has slowly allowed detainees to
have their status reviewed by a military tribunal consisting of six
military colonels. On Sept. 7, however, the Pentagon's chief prosecutor,
Army Col. Robert Swann, " quietly called for three of the six colonels to
be knocked off the panel.
( "
Swann "agreed with defense lawyers that the three officers are
unsuitable" because it was doubtful they could rule impartially. Two of the
colonels were involved in rounding up and transporting detainees to
Guantanamo. A third has admitted to describing all those held at Guantanamo
as "terrorists." Swann also asked the chairman of the panel, Army Col.
Peter Brownback, the only lawyer on the panel, to "closely evaluate his
own suitability to serve."

has written a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld arguing
that "the failure of the Guantanamo Bay hearing to meet basic standards
for fair trials shows that the U.S. military commissions are fatally
flawed and must be scrapped
." The group has concluded the hearings, where recognized rules of
legal procedure were not used, "fall far short of international fair trial
standards." Early cases have been marred by poor translation and
inadequate resources for defense counsel. Panel members -- most of whom have
no legal training -- have been visibly confused about basic legal
issues. Instead of reinventing a legal system from scratch, the military
could use "existing criminal courts or courts-martial."

'STUNNING REVERSAL' ON HAMDI: For more than two years, the Bush
administration argued that Yaser Hamdi was "so dangerous that he had to be
detained indefinitely in solitary confinement with no access to counsel
and no right to trial." In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that " a
state of war is not a blank check for the president
" and Hamdi must be allowed to have a lawyer and challenge his
detention. Now in a "stunning reversal" by the administration, Hamdi "will soon
be released from military prison in South Carolina under an agreement
that will allow him to fly home to Saudi Arabia as a free man." He will
be set free "without ever having been charged with any terror-related
activity." Michael Ratner, president of the New York Center for
Constitutional Rights, said, "The fact that they are letting Hamdi go without
charges proves the importance of courts and attorneys. People ought to
be screaming about this not just for what was done to Hamdi, but for
what it says about what America has become
( .

THE YEE FLIP-FLOP: The Bush administration branded Muslim chaplain Cpt.
James Yee as a spy, placed him in solitary confinement for 76 days and
threatened to execute him
( . When it became
clear the case against Yee wasn't there, he was maligned with charges
of adultery and downloading Internet pornography. Eventually, those
charges were thrown out as well. The Army has now agreed to grant Yee an
honorable discharge
. He will continue to serve at Fort Lewis until he is discharged in
January. The administration also announced it has dropped all charges
against Jackie Farr
, "a colonel who served as an intelligence officer at the Guantanamo
prison and had been accused of trying to take classified material from
the base."