Thursday, August 11, 2005

Prisoners Of No War In Particular

After listening to an interview of Sabin Willett on the Al Franken Show today, it becomes readily apparent that secrecy and this administration is a terrible mix. Especially if you are an innocent caught up in a terrorist dragnet in Pakistan.

Two detainees in Guantanamo are presently in limbo while a judge reviews his options on where to send them. The Uighur (pronounced WEE' - gar) detainees are Abu Bakker Qassim and A'del Abdu Al-Hakim and their lawyer is the aforementioned Sabin Willett. These two muslim men left China (not known to be particularly open to the muslim faith) around the time of the September terrorist attacks in the U.S. and were apprehended by Pakistan police thereafter. At the time, the United States had a bounty on terrorist suspects of $5,000 a head which was apparently paid for these two detainees. Originally placed in Afghanistan at an American Air Force base, they were then transported to Guantanamo for further interrogation.

After some difficulty finding a translator, interrogators eventually came to the conclusion that these men had no connection to September 11th, the Taliban, or Al Qaida. Upon learning of their plight from a Judge Advocate General in the Army, Willett took on the case for the two men and visited them in Guantanamo. From the article on linked above:

"When he first visited his clients last month, Willett learned that the military had ruled the men weren't combatants. He told the judge that the Bush administration never informed him and had implied in court papers that the detainees were ordinary enemy combatants."

From the radio interview, Willett added that upon finding out they the military had ruled them non-combatants he also learned that such a disclosure was secret. He is their lawyer, his clients are innocent, and he cannot tell anyone. An interesting sense of justice from administration and Pentagon officials. Eventually their innocence was declassified, and Willett has pursued their release at the very least from the military base while the government tries to locate a country that will take them.

These men deserve restitution for being obtained and held in the manner that they were, as well as an immediate release from Guantanamo as an act of good faith by the U.S. government. Their case represent the worst fears of civil liberty champions of the past three years: allowing the government to detain, interrogate, and punish people in secret with no recourse available to the individual.

Additionally, Sabin Willett made a point of saying that JAG lawyers were quite unhappy with the process as it stands now. I can't imagine anyone trained in law would ever be comfortable with military tribunals, secret evidence, and a government allowed to label anyone an enemy combatant.

Why does an open democratic republic condone such practices?

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