Hamdi's Detention: 'More Objectionable Than Ever'

The Washington Post weighs in on the release of Yaser Hamdi:

What remains objectionable -- what looms as more objectionable than ever, now that the government has acknowledged Mr. Hamdi's unimportance -- is the unnecessary assault on civil liberties that the administration led in his case. For three years the administration insisted that Mr. Hamdi be held incommunicado and without any semblance of normal legal process or rights despite his citizenship. For most of his detention he was prevented from meeting with his lawyer. In 2002 the government contended in court that merely allowing him to meet with counsel "jeopardizes compelling national security interests" and would "interfere with if not irreparably harm the military's ongoing efforts to gather intelligence." Mr. Hamdi, it warned, might even "pass concealed messages through unwitting intermediaries."

Had the military allowed Mr. Hamdi to meet with his lawyer in a timely fashion and not acted so aggressively to prevent him from presenting his own account of his behavior, it might have had credibility to reserve the right to act otherwise in a truly exceptional situation. But its behavior toward Mr. Hamdi -- even assuming he is an enemy combatant, which he denies -- makes it difficult to give the benefit of the doubt to such claims of necessity. Apocalyptic justifications for needlessly aggressive positions that have gross consequences for liberty cannot be wiped away with a blithe "never mind."

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