Obama possessed

By Cheney that is.

Last Friday, the Obama administration turned to the “dark-side” yet again, and appealed a district court ruling that would give detainees in Afghanistan a chance to challenge their detention before a judge.

The Justice Department also went on to ask the judge to halt proceedings on three other habeas corpus cases.

This wasn’t the first time we’d seen this from the Obama administration. Back in February, the Justice Department announced it would no longer use the term “enemy combatant”, which sounds great!, until you hear the part about them saying that despite this change, they still have the authority to detain suspects indefinitely, without charge or trial.

Sounds like Cheney to me.

And get this, the detainees represented in this most recent case weren’t captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan. They were Yemenis and Tunisians the U.S. government decided might be a threat for whatever unknown reason, and locked them away for six years without any charges.

The judge, John Bates, said:

It is one thing to detain those captured on the surrounding battlefield at a place like Bagram, which respondents correctly maintain is in a theater of war. It is quite another thing to apprehend people in foreign countries — far from any Afghan battlefield — and then bring them to a theater of war, where the Constitution arguable may not reach. Such rendition resurrects the same specter of limitless Executive power the Supreme Court sought to guard against in Boumediene — the concern that the Executive could move detainees physically beyond the reach of the Constitution and detain them indefinitely

That’s coming from a judge who Glenn Greenwald notes:

is an appointee of George W. Bush, a former Whitewater prosecutor, and a very pro-executive-power judge.

And that Boumediene Supreme Court ruling he references? Listen to what Obama had to say about that before he was president:

Today’s Supreme Court decision ensures that we can protect our nation and bring terrorists to justice, while also protecting our core values. The Court’s decision is a rejection of the Bush Administration’s attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo – yet another failed policy supported by John McCain. This is an important step toward reestablishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law, and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus. Our courts have employed habeas corpus with rigor and fairness for more than two centuries, and we must continue to do so as we defend the freedom that violent extremists seek to destroy.

Right. So, what happened to Barack Obama? Why does that phrase “absolute power corrupts absolutely” keep ringing in our heads? The only way we’re going to banish the forces of the “dark-side”, as Cheney likes to call them, is by holding everyone responsible for unleashing said forces accountable.

Accountability means no one is above the law. President. Republican. Democrat. It doesn’t matter.

Spain is doing just that, moving ahead with indictments for six former Bush staff.

Greenwald argues Spain not only has the right to do this, but actually has an obligation under the Convention Against Torture and Geneva Conventions. And more importantly, the primary responsibility under these international laws to prosecute lie with the country whose officials authorized the crimes.

Why does it feel like Obama will fight to hold onto that “limitless Executive power” every step of the way? Could there be any clearer a reason why this nation must move forward with an independent commission of inquiry? (you can tell Congress to do just that here)

Another Blow to Illegal Detention

Judge John Bates took a stand for human rights and common sense when he ruled yesterday that foreign prisoners held in the U.S. prison at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan who had been brought there from outside Afghanistan may challenge their continued detention in the U.S. courts.

The petition before the U.S. District Court had been brought by four inmates at Bagram seeking to extend the Supreme Court’s Boumediene decision, that recognized habeas corpus rights for detainees at Guantanamo, to detention facilities in Afghanistan.

The four inmates include Amin al-Balri, a Yemeni national, who was detained in Thailand; Redha Al-Najar, a Tunisian, who was detained in Pakistan; Fadi al Maqaleh, a Yemeni national, who was detained in an undisclosed location outside Afghan borders; and Haji Wazir, an Afghan national, who was apprehended in Dubai.

Judge Bates noted that three of the four petitioners had no connection with Afghanistan prior to their transfer to Bagram. He added that although practical obstacles existed in resolving a detainee’s right to habeas corpus in a war zone, these obstacles were of the U.S. government’s choosing since it had opted to render them to this location:

“It is one thing to detain those captured on the surrounding battlefield at a place like Bagram, which respondents correctly maintain is in a theater of war. It is quite another thing to apprehend people in foreign countries – far from any Afghan battlefield – and then bring them to a theater of war, where the Constitution arguably may not reach.”

Applying the functional, multi-factor, detainee-by-detainee test mandated by the Supreme Court in its Boumediene decision, Judge Bates upheld the habeas rights of all but Haji Wazir. Disappointingly, the judge held that as an Afghan national, even one apprehended outside the country, Wazir could legitimately be held as an enemy combatant.

However, the process used by U.S. forces in Afghanistan for determining whether an individual can be classified as an enemy combatant was also criticized, with Judge Bates labeling it “inadequate” for the task at hand and even less thorough than the discredited Combatant Status Review Tribunals established in Guantanamo.

Although Judge Bates did not seek to expand the scope of his ruling beyond the petition before him, it can nevertheless be seen as a body blow to the global war doctrine previously espoused by the Bush administration.

If the judgment stands, individuals detained outside a military theater – for example, the fictional terrorist financier in the Philippines posited by Senator Lindsay Graham during Solicitor-General Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearing – should henceforth be destined for the criminal justice system rather than a prisoner of war camp.

Furthermore, an unsubstantiated accusation will no longer be enough to condemn such a detainee to endless years in limbo. Thursday was not just a good day for the Constitution of the United States, it was a red letter day for the Magna Carta as well!