Gitmo's Gotta Go

Britain's top lawyer said publically today what more and more lawyers, judges, diplomats and politicians are saying privately-- that the continuing existence of the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay is "unacceptable." British Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith in a speech said "the historic tradition of the United States as a beacon of freedom, of liberty, and of justice deserves the removal of this symbol."

And the US response? State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters this afternoon that America "at some point in the future" would "like nothing beter than to close" the prison where hundreds of war-on-terror suspects have been held since September 11, 2001. "Nobody wants to be a jailor for the world..." McCormack said, "but the fact of the matter is that the people are dangerous people" and "one thing we don't want to do is release people now who might at some point in the future end up on the battlefield facing our troops..."

The problem, of course, is that these suspects are part soldiers, part criminals, and part innocent bystanders and the process in place to figure out who is who and what is what is not nearly as good as it needs to be-- for the US and for the individuals involved. And when you add to that institutional chaos the fact that many of the countries of origin of the Gitmo detainees have been squirrely about committing to treating their countrymen fairly if and when they return and you get an unwanted prison holding unwanted prisoners creating an unwanted and unwelcome symbol for America . You know it's bad when our best friends in this war, the Brits, come out bluntly and say enough is enough.  



By  |  May 10, 2006; 2:30 PM ET
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Mr. McCormack is engaging in a false dichotomy -- the choice is not between keeping prisoners in Guantanamo and releasing them. We keep numerous "very dangerous people" locked up in maximum-security prisons withn the borders of our country, and al-Qaeda member Moussaoui was just added to that population. The only reason to keep them in Guantanamo is so the Administration can treat them as it pleases without any kind of judicial or legislative oversight, a practice which invariably leads to abuses and a lack of concern for whether any of them are innocent.

Posted by: Jim E-H | May 10, 2006 04:09 PM

The British have been complaining in one way or another for years. They complained, sometimes bitterly, when we had some of their citizens at Gitmo. Those people were eventually released, but it's obvious they haven't forgotten. You can probably find references at the BBC News website. Here's one example:

This announcement by the UK Attorney General did not come out of the blue. It appears that tension on this issue has existed for some time.

Posted by: Cujo359 | May 10, 2006 04:16 PM

I agree wholeheartedly with Lord Goldsmith.

How soon can Britain take delivery?

Posted by: adr | May 10, 2006 04:52 PM

The USA can do whatever it wants. That includes "illegal" spying on us, kidnapping, detention without trial, torture, etc. As President Nixon said, "If the president does it it's legal." Magna Carta? What Magna Carta?

Posted by: Andy | May 10, 2006 04:59 PM

Magna Carta? I do not think this word means what you think it means.

Posted by: Inigo Montoya | May 10, 2006 05:26 PM

-- Britain's top lawyer said publically today what more and more lawyers, judges, diplomats and politicians are saying privately-- that the continuing existence of the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay is "unacceptable." --

Ending this shameful chapter in our country's history and holding this administration accountable for their actions is long overdue.

What a pity these lawyers, judges, diplomats and politicians can only summon up the courage to condemn this terrible policy in private. I hope they find their "public" voice soon.

Posted by: pmorlan | May 10, 2006 05:46 PM

The Magna Carta ref is entirely appropriate. The US is not living up to 13th century English standards of jurisprudence.

Posted by: sm | May 10, 2006 06:11 PM

the real problem is that they are merely paying lip service to the concept, and then only after getting their ears handed to them in the recent elections.

It's a simple thing, really. If you want to raise arms against the State, you'd better be prepared to keep them from being shot down.

And that includes the English, too.

They have no choice, really, their options are to get in bed with the Germans and French, who they obviously can't trust, or the emerging Russo-Sino partnership, or stay with US. Or claim they will actually broker for the Islamic international community, IE they will protect the civil rights(?) of Muslim militants against the above-named. It's really not much of a choice.

but they can easily pay lip service to the concept.

Posted by: cc | May 10, 2006 06:36 PM

...and, I hate to say this, but the civil rights of Islamic militants is probably the last concern on the mind of the average American.

Same with the sovereignty of nations that support or even tolerate Islamic militancy.

The idea of diplomacy is to prevent war, if possible. But diplomacy requires both sides to come to the table to negotiate peacefully. If one side refuses to do that, or can't force the other side to the table, well, all bets are off. And if we can send in a handful of Special Forces to pick up these guys and fly them to Gitmo at will, then I doubt that Gitmo is going to go away, as long as there are militants out there to fill it and there's no real negative consequence to the US government, for having it full of Islamic militants.

Hell, we might even have to expand it.

Posted by: cc | May 10, 2006 06:46 PM

From the comments of the right-wingers, I guess they'd say it's OK to kill anyone and do anything in defence of what they consider "national security." How is that different to Nazi Germany? Except the right-wingers believe they're correct. of course, so did the good Germans. You would not believe how much enmity uantanamo has earned the U.S., even in Australia, a country where we joke that we're the "51st state." (Actually,that would be 51 through 56 or 57, depending on how you count the Northern Territory.) We have a captive in your clutches too, and decent citizens don't like it. Fortunately for your fascists, Bush has Mini-Me Howard at his heels to do his bidding without complaining.

Posted by: Bukko in Australia | May 10, 2006 08:25 PM

As Jim E-H says, terrorists can easily be held in jail. The only conceivable reasons for holding people incommunicado in offshore legal limbo are:
(a) you can't prove they're guilty, or
(b) you want to torture them, or
(c) you want to set the precedent because you're trying to build an authoritarian police state.

With deliberate and pointless cruelty, the Govt often doesn't tell families it holds their relatives, following the charming 1940s principle of Nacht und Nebel. Yet even DoD admits some of these prisoners are completely innocent.

Posted by: OD | May 10, 2006 09:40 PM

The Magna Carta states in Article 39: "No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor will we send upon him except upon the lawful judgement of his peers or the law of the land."

Posted by: Andy | May 10, 2006 09:57 PM

The Habeas Corpus Act passed by Parliament in 1679 guaranteed the right of habeas Corpus in law, although its origins go back much further, probably to Anglo-Saxon times.

Sir William Blackstone, who wrote his famous Commentaries on the Laws of England in the 18th Century, recorded the first use of habeas corpus in 1305. But other writs with the same effect were used in the 12th Century, so it appears to have preceded Magna Carta in 1215.

Its original use was more straightforward - a writ to bring a prisoner into court to testify in a pending trial. But what began as a weapon for the king and the courts became - as the political climate changed - protection for the individual against arbitrary detention by the state.

It is thought to have been common law by the time of Magna Carta, which says in Article 39: "No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor will we send upon him except upon the lawful judgement of his peers or the law of the land."

Over the next few hundred years, concern grew that kings would whimsically intervene on matters of detention, so it was enshrined in law in 1679.

Posted by: Andy | May 10, 2006 10:00 PM

I think GTMO is great, Id like to expand "unlawful combatants" to prisoners in Iraq, because under the current rules, those detainees get back on the street after 21 days. The Arab mind only understand fear, not reason.

You know many of you expound, like its easy to build a case on a cowardly insurgent, remember we are doing the best we can and while you sip latte, our troops do all they can to gather evidence.

In sum, waymore important things to worry about, let GTMO stay as long as the GWOT.


Posted by: Capster | May 10, 2006 11:09 PM

from disgust at these last comments by a most ignorant capster. seems you probably don't care much for such things as due process or habeas corpus or all the legal crap.

do yourself a favor and go read a book, maybe "1984"? And in case you're worried that it's just an old liberal standby, you should note that Orwell's other famous work was a dissection of the failings of the Bolshevik Revolution. I'm really surprised you bother reading legitimate news like the Post.

Posted by: puking... | May 11, 2006 01:06 AM

The following is from a thing called the Consitution. It talks about what one might call "American Values". Read it and see what you think:

Amendment V

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Posted by: | May 11, 2006 02:51 PM

Maybe Capster would feel differently if she/he were one of the ones in GTMO.

What if every country ran a prison like the one in Guantanamo Bay and put whoever they wanted to there then threw away the key?? Still feeling ok with that, Capster? If Hugo Chavez puts you into his prison for the safety of his country without any transparent process, you still happy? Or what about if you weren't an American (I guess you are, you said "our" troops)?

And you closed your message with "Peace" -- to whom were you wishing peace?

Posted by: Fred | May 11, 2006 06:42 PM

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