Is Bagram the New Guantanamo?

Left-wing bloggers unleash on the president, accusing him of operating Bagram in a "legal black hole"

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On Monday, a brief filed by the Obama administration, arguing that Afghan detainees have fewer rights than Guantanamo detainees, unleashed a torrent of outrage from left-wing bloggers and civil libertarians. One of the left's most established bloggers is calling it "the biggest sham in American politics," while others are accusing the government of a secret prison cover-up. At issue is habeas corpus (the right to challenge imprisonment and stand trial), which Obama's solicitor general argued Bagram prisoners--because they're in a war zone--don't have. The arguments against such a position range from legal to ethical. Here are the most substantive criticisms:

  • We've Been Through This Before, rages Glenn Greenwald at Salon, citing Boumediene v. Bush. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prisoners in Guantanamo had the constitutional right to a court review of their imprisonment. That sent a pretty clear message, Greenwald argues, that "people abducted from around the world and shipped to our prison" have habeas rights. 
  • New Location, Same Old Policy, says Alex Knapp at Outside the Beltway: "There's no point in closing down Gitmo if we're just going to replace it with Bagram ... Whether it's in Cuba or Afghanistan, the President is still breaking the law, not to mention acting unjustly." Spencer Ackerman at The Washington Independent, agrees, noting that in both cases, detainee hearings are administered by U.S. military officials--not lawyers. Ackerman quotes a defense lawyer saying this was something he'd expect from "the Bush Administration, but not the Obama Administration."
  • A Surreptitious Plot, argues Andy Worthington at The Huffington Post. In his essay, Worthington looks at the government's actions before Monday's brief and accuses the administration of staging a public-relations cover-up of its actual detainee policy. Earlier this week, the administration announced it was granting "new rights" to Afghan prisoners, which was widely reported in the press. Worthington calls that a "blindingly obvious" ploy to make the administration "appear to be granting important rights to the 600 or so prisoners held in Bagram." What's really happening, he argues, is a continuation of Bush's controversial Guantanamo Bay detainment policies and a loophole for secret CIA prisons. 
  • What Happened to Our President? asks Glenn Greenwald. Recalling how Obama condemned Bush's Guantanamo detainment policy for operating in a "legal black hole," Greenwald cries hypocrisy: "The same person who spoke those pretty, pretty lyrics is now arguing that the U.S. Government must have the power to abduct people, ship them to Bagram, and imprison them with no court review." 
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.