The Senate Armed Services Committee held a key hearing today on the MCA, the bill to restore habeas for the Gitmo detainees, the CSRTs and assorted and sundry other issues pertaining the detention of alleged combatants in the GWOT.Witnesses included Jeffrey Smith, former CIA general counsel, Professor Neal Katyal, who teaches at my fine soon-to-be alma mater, and retired Rear Admiral John Hutson, a leading critic of the GWOT detention policies and the former Judge Advocate General of the Navy. I was particularly struck by this passage in his prepared testimony, which encapsulates exactly the reason why we need to close Gitmo, and charge or release the individuals detained there.Good reading:
The present situation is perverse in the sense that those against whom we have the least evidence of crime are treated the most harshly because they will not be prosecuted. David Hicks, the Australian detainee who is the only person convicted so far under the military commissions system, is the winner because he knows he will serve a very short sentence, and serve it in his home country. Those for whom the crime and evidence are nebulous are doomed to not know when or if they will ever be released.It is also important to note that what restoring habeas would do is get the United States out of the untenable position we find ourselves in. It would enable determinations regarding the status of detainees that everyone would credit as legitimate. Some detainees would likely be released, others would be returned to confinement. The questioning and criticism of the United States regarding the continued detention of those in Guantanamo would, if not cease entirely, greatly diminish.
Also take a gander at the ACLU’s statement on the hearing.As my former (awesome) boss and the ACLU’s intrepid chief lobbyist, Caroline Fredrickson, said: â€œCongress can end torture and abuse right now and return due process rights to those detained by our government by passing the Restoring the Constitution Act. The act also revives our commitment to the bedrock principle of habeas, the right to have a court decide whether a person is being held legally or illegally.”