Bagram Detainees Denied Habeas: Can we say ‘Insidious,’ Mr. President?

In order to reveal something about the salience of incoherence in today’s world, let’s examine this recent event:

On May 21st, the Appeals Court for the District of Columbia ruled that detainees at Bagram do not have the right to habeas corpus; that is, the right to challenge their detention; that is, the same right that was extended to Guantanamo detainees in two separate Supreme Court rulings, Rasul (2004) and Boumediene (2008). The Bagram decision was based on reasoning that because the prison is located in Afghanistan – a zone of active combat –  the precedent in Boumediene, concerning Guantanamo Bay, cannot be applied.  Additionally, the Court ruled that while the United States, in maintaining full and complete control over Guantanamo Bay for over a century, was constitutionally required to provide detainees with the right to challenge their detention, the status of Bagram  was a different case because the U.S. does not intend to maintain control over Bagram with any “permanence.”  At first, the logic of the court, which is grounded in Supreme Court precedent, ‘may’ sound compelling to the reader, but this is where things get sticky…..

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Ten days into the New Year: Not-so-Happy Updates from Gitmo and Bagram

self-deceptionThe Obama administration and Judiciary have been providing a pretty grim preview of 2010 in relation to Guantanamo Bay and Bagram policies.  Here’s a three-part update on some of the devastating ‘developments’ that have taken place in recent days:

1) In the final days of 2009, a federal appeals court in New York ruled that U.S. government agencies may refuse to confirm or deny the existence of records when faced with a Freedom of Information Act request that might disclose sensitive intelligence activities, sources, or methods.

The ruling came on the heels of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted in 2006 by 23 lawyers representing detainees at Guantánamo Bay. In the aforementioned case, lawyers were seeking access to records from the National Security Agency (NSA) and Justice Department that were obtained or related to “ongoing or completed warrantless electronic surveillance or physical searches regarding, referencing, or concerning”any of the 23 lawyers.  

During the ruling, one of the three presiding appeals court judges, Jose Cabranes, uses logic that strikes the ear as painfully predictable in stating that “as long as the disclosure of such data puts national security at risk, intelligence agencies can withhold secret information.” Cabranes further writes, ” The fact that the public is aware of the program’s existence does not mean that the public is entitled to have information regarding the operation of the program, its targets, the information it has yielded, or other highly sensitive national security information that the government has continued to classify.”

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The Privatization of War: Scahill reports 121,000 contractors in Afghanistan

During an interview with Riz Khan on December 21st Jeremy Scahill reported that the Obama administration has surpassed the Bush era’s privatization of war, having nearly doubled the number of security contractors in Afghanistan over the past several months. Amongst the contracting firms who remain in Afghanistan is Blackwater (now operating under the name XE)a firm that Scahill describes as “one of the most powerful private actors in the so called War on Terror.

In a series of reports for The Nation in November and December of 2009, Scahill revealed that “members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives” both inside and outside of Pakistan. Despite public indictments, Blackwater continues to work for the State Department without oversight.

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Obama’s Foreign Policy Failures: Diplomacy, Militarism and Imagery – James Petras

James Petras enumerates how the Obama administration’s policies constitute more continuity than change, and thus continue and compound Bush-era failures.

Hope Fading FastPresident Obama’s greatest foreign policy successes are found in the reports of the mass media. His greatest failures go unreported, but are of great consequence. A survey of the major foreign policy priorities of the White House reveals a continuous series of major setbacks, which call into question the principal objectives and methods pursued by the Obama regime.

These are in order of importance:

1) Washington’s attempt to push for a joint economic stimulus program among the 20 biggest economies at the G-20 meeting in April 2009;

2) Calls for a major military commitment from NATO to increase the number of combat troops in conflict zones in Afghanistan and Pakistan to complement the additional 21,000 US troop buildup (Financial Times April 12, 2009 p.7);

3) Plans to forge closer political and diplomatic relations among the countries of the Americas based on the pursuit of a common agenda, including the continued exclusion of Cuba and isolation of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador (La Jornada (Mex. D.F.) April 20, 2009);

4) Weakening, isolating and pressuring Iran through a mixture of diplomatic gestures and tightening economic sanctions to surrender its nuclear energy program (Financial Times, April 16/17, 2009 p. 7);

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