Obama and Habeas Corpus
by Glenn Greenwald
11 Apr 09 | Salon
It was once the case under the Bush administration that the U.S. would abduct people from around the world, accuse them of being Terrorists, ship them to Guantanamo, and then keep them there for as long as we wanted without offering them any real due process to contest the accusations against them. That due-process-denying framework was legalized by the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Many Democrats — including Barack Obama — claimed they were vehemently opposed to this denial of due process for detainees, and on June 12, 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of Boumediene v. Bush, ruled that the denial of habeas corpus rights to Guantanamo detainees was unconstitutional and that all Guantanamo detainees have the right to a full hearing in which they can contest the accusations against them.
In the wake of the Boumediene ruling, the U.S. Government wanted to preserve the power to abduct people from around the world and bring them to American prisons without having to provide them any due process. So, instead of bringing them to our Guantanamo prison camp (where, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, they were entitled to habeas hearings), the Bush administration would instead simply send them to our prison camp in Bagram, Afghanistan, and then argue that because they were flown to Bagram rather than Guantanamo, they had no rights of any kind and Boudemiene didn’t apply to them. The Bush DOJ treated the Boumediene ruling, grounded in our most basic constitutional guarantees, as though it was some sort of a silly game — fly your abducted prisoners to Guantanamo and they have constitutional rights, but fly them instead to Bagram and you can disappear them forever with no judicial process. Put another way, you just close Guantanamo, move it to Afghanistan, and — presto — all constitutional obligations disappear.
Back in February, the Obama administration shocked many civil libertarians by filing a brief in federal court that, in two sentences, declared that it embraced the most extremist Bush theory on this issue — the Obama DOJ argued, as The New York Times‘s Charlie Savage put it, “that military detainees in Afghanistan have no legal right to challenge their imprisonment there, embracing a key argument of former President Bush’s legal team.” Remember: these are not prisoners captured in Afghanistan on a battlefield. Many of them have nothing to do with Afghanistan and were captured far, far away from that country — abducted from their homes and workplaces — and then flown to Bagram to be imprisoned. Indeed, the Bagram detainees in the particular case in which the Obama DOJ filed its brief were Yemenis and Tunisians captured outside of Afghanistan (in Thailand or the UAE, for instance) and then flown to Bagram and locked away there as much as six years without any charges. That is what the Obama DOJ defended, and they argued that those individuals can be imprisoned indefinitely with no rights of any kind — as long as they are kept in Bagram rather than Guantanamo. >>>