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Friday, June 13, 2008

habeas corpus and James Yee

Good news yesterday that the Supreme Court restored habeas corpus. From Glenn Greenwald
As a result, Guantanamo detainees accused of being "enemy combatants" have the right to challenge the validity of their detention in a full-fledged U.S. federal court proceeding. The ruling today is the first time in U.S. history that the Court has ruled that detainees held by the U.S. Government in a place where the U.S. does not exercise formal sovereignty (Cuba technically is sovereign over Guantanamo) are nonetheless entitled to the Constitutional guarantee of habeas corpus whenever they are held in a place where the U.S. exercises effective control.

This is great news but it's still disconcerting that this decision was 5-4. These measures are more troubling to me because I've heard, from a lot of people who have a lot to lose (Col. Morris Davis, James Yee, numerous people who were formerly part of the GWB administration), that the majority of the decisions being made with these newly granted powers are politically and not strategically motivated. We know the "war on terror" is a lot of hand waving but even those who believe strongly in using every means possible to go after terrorists are terribly concerned when they come into contact with the specifics of what's being done. Perhaps the GWB administration is doing us a favor by showing how these reversals of long standing principles can go so terribly wrong so quickly. I just hope we have the presence of mind to overturn these things once we get a new administration.


The Hinckley Institute of Politics got the audio of James Yee's talk up on KRCL's audio archive a week or two ago. James Yee is the former army chaplain at Guantanamo who was himself detained and underwent sensory deprivation.

Yee also made it clear that he didn't think the facilities in Guantanamo were going anywhere, no matter who becomes the next president. This is James Yee's last statement before he asked for questions. He was showing slides of some of the things he'd been describing. I suck at transcribing.

"New dental chair, surgical equipment in which prisoners, uh supposedly, according to Michael Moore in his last movie "Sicko". The prisoners supposedly get better treatment than our U.S. service personnel. But I don't think that's the case. Because there are also force feeding chairs in which prisoners who are on hunger strike who deteriorate to less than 80 pounds are force fed through the nose after being strapped into these chairs. Because the mission in Guantanamo is to preserve life, so prisoners who go on hunger strike are not allowed to die. they're forced-fed a tube is lubed with petroleum jelly, like vasoline, shoved down the nose, that prisoner is then fed with a liquid diet. A torturous process that stopped a hunger strike of 130 prisoners down to 4 within two days. After being strapped in these chairs, they stopped their hunger strike."

The full audio ( Hearing mild mannered Yee talk in person, with lawyers and a few military personnel (they came to the talk) was more persuasive to me than all the other stuff I had read on the internet. For people who spend way too much time on the net (like me) it's good to remember that in person interaction has its own, unique benefits.


What I really think the US should be doing with all the resources wasted on the TSA, Homeland Security and the "war on terror" is to track down and monitor every nuclear weapon (oh yeah, something like that would require diplomacy, a word GWB can't even pronounce correctly). Of course we want some safety in our cities but do we really need these sorts of bungling bureaucratizes on high?

It's been a terrible eight years. I'll go back to watching the clock tick, tick, tick until January.