- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 16, 2005

The administration plans to help spend the re-elected president’s additional politicalcapitalby keeping certain non-citizen suspected terrorists in prison without charges for what may be the rest of their lives. They will never be brought before a judge or a neutral fact-finder. This is yet another revision of this nation’s rule of law.

As Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, a widely respected and independent expert on foreign affairs, said on Fox News Channel on Jan. 2: “A life in prison without even a trial is unheard of in this country and this proposal is a bad idea. We ought to have a very careful constitutional look at this.” Moreover, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has pointed out that our global war against terrorism will not be over until all terrorist organizations with murderous global intentions are eliminated. It may take so long for such a day to come that these could be essentially life sentences for the imprisoned alleged terrorists.

Dana Priest of The Washington Post broke this story on Jan. 2, as she has broken a good many other stories on this administration’s evasions of international and domestic law.

As she said the next day on National Public Radio, the administration’s thinking is “they have hundreds of suspected terrorists who they do not want to go let free for fear that they will take up arms against the United States again, but [about] who[m] they don’t have enough evidence to bring them to court.

“Nor,” she added, “would they really want to bring them to court because the evidence would be aired publicly.” But since the evidence against these prisoners wouldn’t be sufficient to even bring them to court, on what basis in international law or our own standards of justice can the president justify this plan? Also, last June, the Supreme Court ruled that our detainees at Guantanamo Bay are entitled to have some form of due process, either in our federal courts or in a hearing before a neutral decision-maker. But the administration’s new idea of how todealwithsuspectedterrorists condemns the prisoners at Guantanamo to be in legal limbo, thereby defying the Supreme Court.

Another way of keeping these prisoners indefinitely, the State Department has suggested, was described by Ms. Priest on NPR: “Why not move the large blocs of nationals (suspected of terrorism) from Saudi Arabia or Yemen or Afghanistan into newly-built prisons in those countries (that the United States would pay to construct)”?But, under this agreement, those governments would have to agree to treat the prisoners with respectfortheir human rights.

However,how wouldtheUnited Statesmonitor whethersuchan agreementwas being kept, particularlysincethose countrieshardly have a history of concernforthe human rights of the prisoners they already have? And to whom would those prisoners complain if they were being tortured? Certainly they would not be getting solicitous visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Yet another idea being considered is to build a brand new prison at Guantanamo Bay for what could be the rest of the lives of these suspects, but with more comforts than they are presently given.

This more humane closed environment might even have a rehabilitation or job-training component. But rehabilitation or job training for what purpose, since they are likely to never get out of prison? What would be the motivation for rehabilitation, and how many jobs are there for inmates to do in prison that require training? But the inmates would be allowed to socialize more with their fellow prisoners for the rest of their lives. Maybe the Defense Department would allow a Starbucks concession in this new forevermore facility.

In a way, the CIA has already created a partial model for holding prisoners indefinitely without charges or the slightest concern with due process. They become “ghost prisoners,” as Ms. Priest noted in her Jan. 2 Washington Post story: “CIA detention facilities have been located on an off-limits corner of the Bagram air base in Afghanistan, on ships at sea and on Britain’s Diego Garcia island in the Indian Ocean.” These CIA prisoners, however, are being held in fathomless secrecy, unlike the inmates at the proposed facilities, where presumably their identities will be known. There is no obtainable record of how many CIA “ghost prisoners” there are; why and where they are being held; and what methods are being used to extract information from them.

No public hearings have been held on what the CIA does with its faceless prisoners. But maybe Congress will make a pass at overseeing the implementation of the new designs for the containment of the hundreds or more lifers who, though not ghosts, will never get a chance to have the United States prove they are being rightly held unless worldwide terrorism expires before they do.

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