Court approves concentration camps for all non-US citizens


Richard Moore

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Court: Detainees Can't Challenge Cases

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Feb 20, 2:26 PM (ET)


WASHINGTON (AP) - A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that foreign-born 
prisoners seized as potential terrorists and held in Guantanamo Bay may not 
challenge their detention in U.S. courts, a key victory for President Bush's 
anti-terrorism plan.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 that 
civilian courts no longer have the authority to consider whether the military is
illegally holding the prisoners - a decision that will strip court access for 
hundreds of detainees with cases currently pending.

"The arguments are creative but not cogent. To accept them would be to defy the 
will of Congress," wrote Judge A. Raymond Randolph in the 25-page opinion, which
was joined by Judge David B. Sentelle. Both are Republican appointees to the 
federal bench.

Barring federal court access was a key provision in the Military Commissions 
Act, which Bush pushed through Congress last year to set up a system run by the 
Defense Department to prosecute terrorism suspects.

At the White House, deputy press secretary Dana Perino called the decision "a 
significant win" for the administration and said the Military Commissions Act 
provides "sufficient and fair access to courts for these detainees."

Attorneys for the detainees immediately said they would appeal the ruling to the
Supreme Court, which last year struck down the Bush administration's original 
plan for trying detainees before military commissions.

"We're disappointed," said Shayana Kadidal of the Center for Constitutional 
Rights. "The bottom line is that according to two of the federal judges, the 
president can do whatever he wants without any legal limitations as long as he 
does it offshore."

A spokesman for the Justice Department praised the decision.

"The decision reaffirms the validity of the framework that Congress established 
in the MCA permitting Guantanamo detainees to challenge their detention" through
military hearings coordinated by the Defense Department, said spokesman Erik 

Under the commissions act, the government may indefinitely detain foreigners who
have been designed as "enemy combatants" and authorizes the CIA to use 
aggressive but undefined interrogation tactics.

Most criticized by Democrats and civil libertarians was a provision that 
stripped U.S. courts of the authority to hear arguments from detainees who said 
they were being held illegally. The law instead authorizes three-officer 
military panels to review whether there is sufficient evidence to justify the 

Attorneys argued that the detainees aren't covered by that provision and the 
military panels don't meet minimum standards of detainees' due process rights. 
But in Tuesday's ruling, the D.C. Circuit panel said the new law did apply.

A spokeswoman for Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary 
Committee, said he was accelerating efforts to pass a revision to the law that 
would restore detainees' legal rights, noting that some 12 million lawful 
permanent residents currently in the U.S. could also be stripped of rights.

The new provision, introduced by Leahy and then-Judiciary Chairman Arlen 
Specter, R-Pa., narrowly failed last year on a 48-51 vote.

"The Military Commissions Act is a dangerous and misguided law that undercuts 
our freedoms and assaults our Constitution by removing vital checks and balances
designed to prevent government overreaching and lawlessness," Leahy, D-Vt., said
in a statement.

U.S. citizens and foreigners being held inside the country normally have the 
right to contest their detention before a judge. The Justice Department said 
foreign enemy combatants are not protected by the Constitution.

Judge Judith W. Rogers dissented, saying the cases should proceed. She argued 
that the military hearings - known as Combatant Status Review Tribunals, or 
CSRTs - deprive detainees of critical due process rights by putting the legal 
burden on detainees to prove they do not pose a terrorist threat.

"District courts are well able to adjust these proceedings in light of the 
government's significant interests in guarding national security," wrote Rogers,
a Clinton appointee. "More significant still, continued detention may be 
justified by a CSRT on the basis of evidence resulting from torture."

Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., who chairs the House Armed Services Committee, said he 
is concerned about whether military hearings offer detainees the legal 
protections and will launch a congressional review.

"The last thing that we would want is to convict an individual for terrorism and
then have that conviction overturned because of fatal flaws in the Military 
Commissions law passed in the previous Congress," he said.

Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney at the Brennan Center for Justice, said the ruling 
sends the wrong message about justice to U.S. citizens and the international 

"It's a terrible ruling that contradicts centuries of Anglo-American history and
allows the indefinite detention of innocent people without charge or judicial 
review," he said.

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