- Abu Bakker Qassim and A’del Abdu al-Hakim are two men who were being held in Guantanamo although the government determined that they were not enemy combatants. They were not terrorists or members of the Taliban. They were held for more than a year despite this.
- The Bush Administration is so committed to its theories of arbitrary executive power, and so willing to use legal maneuvers to avoid any judicial scrutiny that are comically transparent (except that nothing this destructive to the rule of law could be comic), that even Michael Luttig–a judge who not only has impeccable reactionary credentials but had a potential Supreme Court nomination in the balance–couldn’t take it anymore and lashed out at the Bush administration’s disgraceful tactics.
- The two were finally released to Albania this weekend–with their appeal scheduled to go before the D.C. Circuit on Monday.
Hmm, I’m sure it’s all a coincidence, just as it would be a coincidence if you gained a few pounds after going on a deep-fried-pizza and cheesecake diet. And as Hilzoy says, this isn’t an isolated case:
This administration has built up quite a track record of freeing people (or, in Jose Padilla’s case, bringing unrelated charges) just in time to render their appeals moot, thereby preventing the courts from finding their conduct illegal or unconstitutional.
They held Yaser Hamdi for years without charges, on the grounds that he was a dangerous terrorist who did not need to be tried, and then, when the Supreme Court claimed that he had a right to contest his imprisonment in a neutral forum, they abruptly released him to Saudi Arabia. After accusing Jose Padilla of planning to detonate a dirty bomb (but not charging him with that or any other crime), and after keeping him locked up as an enemy combatant, the government charged him with unrelated crimes just in time to avoid defending his detention before the Supreme Court.
In both cases, the government had claimed that it was vital to our national security to keep these men in prison without charges — so vital that it was worth scrapping both the plain meaning of the fifth and sixth amendments to the Constitution and centuries of legal tradition in order to hold them as uncharged enemy combatants. Oddly enough, however, keeping Hamdi locked up and Padilla uncharged was less important than keeping the Bush administration’s supposed right to detain United States citizens without charges, indefinitely, from being challenged in court. It’s an interesting set of priorities.
Now, right before the Uighurs’ case comes before the DC Circuit Court, the government has found a way to moot this appeal as well. If the Bush administration’s lawyers and policy makers had the courage of their convictions, they would not be afraid to make their case in court, on the merits.
Let’s be clear: the constitutional definition of executive power being advanced by the administration is utterly farcical. They may be suitable for their most egregious lickspittles, but it can’t be sold even in very conservative appellate courts, and they know it. (They are also blurring distinctions between the laws of war and legal methods of combating terrorism to aid in this aggrandizement of executive power.) It’s a scandal.