The number of international and US laws violated in this entire fiasco is mind-boggling. And the magnitude of hypocrisy expressed in the words of those involved is beyond comment. “Flexibility and freedom,” indeed !! Assholes !!
For Guantánamo Review Boards, Limits Abound
By TIM GOLDEN
Published: December 31, 2006
GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — At one end of a converted trailer in the American military detention center here, a graying Pakistani businessman sat shackled before a review board of uniformed officers, pleading for his freedom.
The prisoner had seen just a brief summary of what officials said was a thick dossier of intelligence linking him to Al Qaeda. He had not seen his own legal papers since they were taken away in an unrelated investigation. He has lawyers working on his behalf in Washington, London and Pakistan, but here his only assistance came from an Army lieutenant colonel, who stumbled as he read the prisoner’s handwritten statement.
As the hearing concluded, the detainee, who cannot be identified publicly under military rules, had a question. He is a citizen of Pakistan, he noted. He was arrested on a business trip to Thailand. On what authority or charges was he even being held?
“That question,” a Marine colonel presiding over the panel answered, “is outside the limits of what this board is permitted to consider.”
Under a law passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in October, this double-wide trailer may be as close to a courtroom as most Guantánamo prisoners ever get. The law prohibits them from challenging their detention or treatment by writs of habeas corpus in the federal courts. Instead, they may only petition a single federal appeals court to examine whether the review boards followed the military’s own procedures in reviewing their status as “enemy combatants.”
But an examination of the Guantánamo review boards by The New York Times suggests that they have often fallen short, not only as a source of due process for the hundreds of men held here, but also as a forum to resolve questions about what the detainees have done and the threats they may pose.
Some limitations have long been evident. The prisoners have no right to a lawyer, or to see classified evidence, or even to know the identity of their accusers. What has been less visible, however, is what many officials describe as a continuing shortage of information about many detainees, including some who have been held on sketchy or disputed intelligence.
Behind the hearings that journalists are allowed to observe is a system that has at times been as long on government infighting and diplomatic maneuvering as it has been short on hard evidence. The result, current and former officials acknowledged, is that some detainees have been held for years on less compelling information, while a growing number of others for whom there was thought to be stronger evidence of militant activities have been released under secret arrangements between Washington and their home governments.
Military officials emphasize that the boards are an administrative forum and were never intended to replicate judicial standards of fairness. But they say the hearings offer prisoners a viable opportunity to rebut the government’s evidence.
“At the end of the day, it’s about giving the detainee the flexibility and freedom to present his case,” said Capt. Philip L. Waddingham, a former Navy pilot who oversees the operations of the panels at Guantánamo.
Read the rest of it here.