Monday, December 11, 2006

What Makes an Unlawful Enemy Combatant?

We have been told that Guantánamo holds "the worst of the worst." But on what evidence has the government made this determination?

The Combatant Status Review Tribunals that classify prisoners as "unlawful enemy combatants" have used the flimsiest rationales to label prisoners "threats to national security." According to the Washington Post, karate training, "knowledge of computers," owning a “casio watch” and cook service in the Algerian army have been listed as evidence that detainees endanger America.

Others are accused of fighting against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. This despite the fact that the United States armed and supplied the anti-Soviet "freedom fighters" as part of its Cold War strategy in the 1980s. Other reasons have included traveling to "Mecca, Saudi Arabia and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to visit the holy places," the fact that a prisoner “prays in his cell” and “has expressed dislike of President Bush” (uh-oh).

- Adrian Bleifuss Prados

DoD Scraps Plans to Build GTMO Trial Complex

Yesterday, the Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg reported that the Pentagon has halted its plan to build a massive trial facility in the Guantánamo Bay naval base.

In November, the Pentagon discretely posted a notice on the internet, seeking builders for what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch called “a kangaroo compound.” Halliburton was rumored to be a prospective contractor for the project.

The complex, which would have accommodated thousands of detainees and personnel, had a projected cost of $100 million. It would have housed trials conducted under the legal regime of the new Military Commissions Act.

However, the dubious constitutionality of the MCA and incoming Democratic Congress now put the future of the Administration’s detention policies in question. The Pentagon attempted to bypass congressional approval for the project by citing national security concerns and its power to independently authorize emergency military construction. Nevertheless, on Friday Senator Dianne Feinstein, who sits on both the Military Construction and Armed Services committees, announced that the Pentagon had withdrawn its plans.