The Miami Herald‘s Carol Rosenberg reports that, this week, yet another federal judge has ordered the Obama administration to release yet another Guantanamo detainee on the ground that there is no persuasive evidence to justify his detention. The latest detainee to win his habeas hearing, Mohammed Hassen, is a 27-year old Yemeni imprisoned by the U.S. without charges for 8 years, since he was 19 years old. He has “long claimed he was captured in Pakistan studying the Quran and had no ties to al Qaida,” and that “he had been unjustly rounded up in a March 2002 dragnet by Pakistani security forces in the city of Faisalabad that targeted Arabs.” Hassen is now the third consecutive detainee ordered freed who was rounded up in that same raid. The Obama DOJ opposed his petition even though the Bush administration had cleared him for release in 2007. He has now spent roughly 30% of his life in a cage at Guantanamo.
What’s most significant about this is that Hassen is now the 36th detainee who has won his habeas hearing since the Supreme Court in 2008 ruled they have the right to such hearings — out of 50 whose petitions have been heard. In other words, 72% of Guantanamo detainees who finally were able to obtain just minimal due process (which is what a habeas hearing is) — after years of being in a cage without charges — have been found by federal judges to be wrongfully detained. These are people who are part of what the U.S. Government continues to insist are “the worst of the worst” who remain, and whose release is being vehemently contested by the Obama DOJ.
The real disgrace here is that the U.S. Congress, in 2006, enacted the Military Commissions Act, which explicitly denied all Guantanamo detainees any rights to habeas review. The widely loved Lindsey Graham — along with the profoundly noble Joe Lieberman and John McCain — were the prime sponsors of that provision. Think about what that means, what the people who voted for that (including 12 Democratic Senators) tried to do: had the Supreme Court not struck down that provision by a 5-4 vote in Boumediene, all of these innocent people would continue to be denied any rights of judicial review, and would unjustly languish in prison indefinitely. The people who voted for the Military Commissions Act, and the 4 Supreme Court Justices who sought to uphold it, knowingly acted to deny scores of innocent prisoners any opportunity for judicial review. That’s as warped and as evil as it gets.
And despite knowing how many people we are innocently imprisoning, the Obama administration continues to demand the power to imprison people with no judicial review: by indefinitely detaining them without charges, by insisting that Bagram detainees captured outside Afghanistan have no habeas rights, by refusing to release any Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo, including those whom the administration itself knows are being wrongfully detained. And in light of all this, who in their right mind would trust the President to assassinate fellow citizens based purely on his unchecked, unreviewed conclusion that the person is a Terrorist? It’s commonplace to label something a travesty of justice, but who can deny that knowingly imprisoning innocent people for years and years while scheming to deny them all judicial review is a disgrace of historic proportions?
UPDATE: One other point: the Carol Rosenberg who reported on the Hassen victory and is one of the very few reporters who pays substantial attention to all of the Guantanamo detainees who are winning their habeas cases, is the same Carol Rosenberg whom the Obama DOD just banned from covering military commissions at Guantanamo. Maybe The New York Times can do a big story tomorrow on how press freedoms are being curtailed in Pakistan — or how due process is being denied in Iran.