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October 9, 2008

A day after a federal district judge in Washington ordered the government to release a group of 17 Chinese Muslims held at Guantánamo Bay, a federal appeals court blocked their release to the U.S. The three-judge panel granted a government request for more time to argue against the release of the Uighurs, despite the fact that the government has already deemed the men as “no longer enemy combatants” (which is Bush-speak for “innocent.” That’s right: innocent).

Also documents obtained by Yale’s Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic and the ACLU through the Freedom of Information Act, disclosed this week the government’s extension of standard operating procedures developed for Guantánamo to individuals labeled “enemy combatants” being held in the U.S. for years without charge. These measures include the use of prolonged isolation, painful stress position, extreme sensory deprivation, and threats of violence and death in an attempt to create a miniature Guantánamo at home.

Valtin frames both issues within the context of the Supreme Court decision preserving the right of men held at Guantánamo Bay to pursue habeas challenges to their detention. He writes:

It’s hard to believe the DC court thought it had any leg to stand on, given that the Supreme Court last June ruled unconstitutional the provision of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that suspended the use of habeas corpus by detainees in Bush’s “war on terror.” Passage of the MCA is one of the great shames of this nation…Repeal of this law should be one of the first priorities of the next Congress. The new ACLU documents, revealing how torture treatment abroad migrated to the United States, and then its use on U.S. citizens, demonstrate how slippery is the slope that leads from so-called national security exigency to the destruction of basic domestic civil liberties.

It is clear that our lame duck president and his cronies won’t go down quietly (White House press secretary Dana Perino stated that the administration was “deeply concerned by, and strongly disagrees with” the release of the Uighurs which “if allowed to stand, could be used as precedent for other detainees held at Guantánamo Bay”). This administration’s detention policies are a failure, they don’t keep us safe or free, and have denigrated the U.S. in the eyes of the world. We are hopeful that the next administration won’t continue these wrongheaded policies and will help restore our country to the defender of human rights we once used to be.

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