Bush Administration Considers Guantanamo Closure
I'll believe it if it happens, but according to the New York Times, Bush administration officials are discussing providing more legal rights to the Guantanamo detainees it seeks to hold as enemy combatants.
The discussions are described as a step on the road to closing Gitmo. Why the change of heart? The Administration may be fearful the next case the Supreme Court decides will be too generous to the detainees.
The administration has fought for years in court and in Congress against granting the detainees more rights. In the latest instance, the Supreme Court is to consider a case brought by Guantánamo detainees who are seeking to challenge their confinement in habeas corpus suits in federal court.
If the administration loses that case, it could give the detainees even more legal rights and create a precedent limiting the president’s and the military’s power. Lawyers inside and outside of government said a detailed proposal from the administration to give detainees fuller legal protections could convince the justices that they need not resolve the case, Boumediene v. Bush.
The officials talking to the Times cite numerous possibilities, most of which seem to involve moving the detainees to facilities in the U.S -- and possibly building one to house them. Cited as under discussion:
- giving the detainees lawyers and having federal judges determine their status as enemy combatants
....a specially created federal court with strict rules to protect classified information would hear detainee challenges to their detention. Judges who usually sit in regular federal courts would preside and would hear arguments from detainees’ lawyers. Few details of the proposal are known, but such proceedings would be unlikely to give the federal judges the latitude they would have in the habeas corpus cases the detainees are seeking in the Supreme Court, lawyers said.
- Allowing detainees in the U.S. to bring habeas actions
- Keeping the current military commission hearing practice, substituting military judges for the hearing officers who currently make the decisions.
Under current procedures at Guantánamo, military officers decide whether detainees are properly held as enemy combatants, and the suspects are not permitted lawyers in the detention hearings, known as Combatant Status Review Tribunals.
The new rights would only apply to detaines held in the U.S. They would not apply to the 24,500 detainees the U.S. is holding in Iraq.
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