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The End Of Habeas Corpus: This Is “Justice” In Obama’s America

By Kenneth J. Theisen

25 May, 2010

On Friday, May 21, 2010 the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the Obama administration, holding that three prisoners who are being held by the U. S. at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan cannot challenge their detention in U.S. courts.

This is a victory for reaction, essentially denying prisoners of the U.S. war of terror held at Bagram the right to habeas corpus.

The denial of this basic right means that these prisoners have no right to a hearing in which a judge would review the evidence against them and could potentially order their release. This is "justice" in Obama’s America. The Obama administration has once again advanced the political and legal agenda begun by the Bush regime. If this ruling is not overturned, many prisoners of the U.S. war of terror could be held indefinitely.

The cases decided on Friday were brought by the International Justice Network, the organization coordinating Bagram habeas litigation. The cases involve a Tunisian man captured in Pakistan, a Yemeni man captured in Thailand, and another Yemeni man who says he was captured somewhere else outside of Afghanistan that has not been disclosed. They have been held at this hellhole U.S.-run prison for more than seven years without access to a court or counsel.
Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) National Security Project made this comment on the cases, "Today's decision ratifies the dangerous principle that the U.S. government has unchecked power to capture people anywhere in the world, unilaterally declare them enemy combatants and subject them to indefinite military detention with no judicial review and little to no process for challenging their detention in any forum. The rule embraced by the court of appeals permits the executive branch to manipulate whether its actions will or will not be subject to judicial scrutiny, simply by choosing whether to fly a prisoner to Bagram or Guantánamo. Locking up people who were picked up far from any battlefield for years without telling them why, without giving them access to lawyers and without giving them a fair chance to contest the evidence against them is unlawful and un-American."

An unknown number of victims of the U.S. war of terror are currently held at Bagram and other overseas U.S.-run prisons by their U.S. torturers. The Obama administration has continued to fight the release of information on these hellholes for fear of exposing the crimes committed by the U.S. government. But some information is known as the result of lawsuits.

In response to an ACLU Freedom of Information lawsuit for records related to the detention, rendition and treatment of prisoners at Bagram, the Defense Department in January released for the first time a list of the people imprisoned at the notorious detention facility. The list contains the names of 645 prisoners who were detained there as of September 2009, but other vital information including their citizenship, how long they have been held, in what country they were captured and the circumstances of their capture has been withheld. The ACLU is presently challenging the withholding of this information in court.

The government also continues to withhold information about the implementation of its new detainee status review procedures as well as information about a separate "secret jail" on the base, reportedly run by either the Joint Special Operations Command or the Defense Intelligence Agency, where detainees maintain they have been abused and guards and interrogators may not be subject to the same rules that apply at the main Bagram detention facility.

"Today's decision makes the need for greater transparency at Bagram all the more pressing. The Obama administration has instituted a new military process for determining whether prisoners should be released but has not disclosed any information about the implementation of the process, such as transcripts of the new Detainee Review Board proceedings," said Goodman. "The military disclosed this kind of information about Guantánamo proceedings and should do the same for the Bagram proceedings. The military should also come clean about the secret 'second' prison at Bagram Air Base the Red Cross confirmed existed last week."

But the Obama administration is not about to "come clean" in this or any other "national security" case. Since coming into office, Obama’s lawyers have made multiple court appearances to cover up and defend crimes of the Bush regime and to continue many of those crimes under Obama. Massive surveillance, torture, extraordinary rendition, the running of hellhole prisons such as those at Gitmo and Bagram, imperialist wars, assassinations, and many other crimes are now routinely carried out by your government.

When these actions are challenged in court, Obama’s legal minions drag out the old Bush regime legal arguments to defend them. We hear of the need to protect "state secrets" and "national security." We are told that the Constitution does not apply to those held outside of U.S. territory. We are told that legal rights such as habeas corpus and the Miranda warnings no longer apply in the U.S. war of terror. Any day now I expect to hear Obama or Attorney General Holder refer to these and other rights as "quaint." Maybe they can give a job to John Yoo again in the Department of Justice. All too often they have echoed his legal philosophy in court.

As World Can’t Wait has said, "Crimes are crimes, no matter who does them." This latest case of injustice was brought to you by the Obama administration.