ONE STEP BACK: Senate vote to strip Guantanamo detainees of legal rights affirmed by the Supreme Court sends the wrong message to the world about U.S. justice. (Houston Chronicle, 11/14/05)
THE U.S. Senate narrowly approved an amendment by Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to deny basic legal rights to prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay. If approved by the House, the measure would prevent prisoners from seeking redress in American courts and invalidate hundreds of habeas corpus motions already filed by detainees to force authorities to justify their imprisonment.
The measure is contrary to traditional American concepts of justice and will damage U.S. stature abroad.
The U.S. penal facility at Guantanamo holds about 500 people designated by U.S. authorities as enemy combatants. The administration wants to limit their contact with civilian courts to narrow procedural matters. Sen. Graham justified his measure on the grounds that excessive legal actions by detainees were interfering with efforts by military officials to gather intelligence from them.
If enacted into law, the Graham legislation would roll back last year’s Supreme Court ruling affirming the right of detainees to use American courts to challenge their imprisonment.
Who doesn’t recall the moral revulsion with which their teachers explained that FDR was a barbarian for not allowing the hundreds of thousands of German and Japanese POWs challenge their detentions in our courts?