SCOTUS: Guantanamo Detainees' Rights

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

Today the Supreme Court heard arguments about whether detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. base in Cuba, have the right to challenge their imprisonment in federal court. Back in October of 2006, Congress passed a law which said that federal courts do not have jurisdiction in detainee cases. So as it stands now, detainees face indefinite detention with no concrete way to challenge their status as enemy combatants. About three hundred men are being held at the base, and many have been there for as long as six years. This case represents an attempt to balance prisoners' individual rights with the desire to prevent terrorism. We'll hear from both sides of the argument today on the show. So tell us: what rights should detainees have?

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I grieved on the day my fellow co-workers first vociferously started to defend torture and removing habeas corpus of any individual. When did the rights of the individual become second to the rights of the citizen? When did we become the bad guys?

Sent by Bob | 3:26 PM | 12-5-2007

No they are not U.S. citizens. Imagine if another country's government came over here, kidnapped an American citizen, held them for six years and gave them virtually no rights and then the foreign government justifies it by saying they are not citizens of their country and therefore not entitled to basic rights. Imagine the outcry.

Sent by Joey (Phoenix, AZ) | 3:32 PM | 12-5-2007

Your last caller seemed to talk straight out the administration talking points. The main point he makes is false: we do not know whether the people in detention are terrorists because they have not been given the most basic justice to determine that fact. I come from a view that all justice is based on the assumption of innocence until proven guilty. They have not been proven to join al-Qaeda or Taliban, but they are detained on nothing because those records are not available or don't exist.

Sent by Brett in Bountiful, UT | 3:37 PM | 12-5-2007

Either they are Prisoners of War, in which case they are the problem of the military or they are criminals in which case they should be judged and either let go or sentenced. No war has been declared by Congress, no country has declared war on us, thus the "War on Terror" is a metaphor for a fight against a criminal conspiracy, not a real "war".

These people should have their day in court and all of us should quit listening to the lying knaves in the Bush administration that torture and detain foreign nationals and use fear mongering to blind simple minded people.

Babbling on, as one caller did, about the "cocktail circuit" and "carrying peoples pack" and other military metaphors totally obscures the issue that some might be guilty and some might be innocent and we will never know unless they are fairly judged. It is also amazing that so many of these flag waving idiots spit on the ideals that the flag stands for.

Sent by George from Oregon | 3:41 PM | 12-5-2007

Heya, Joey

I understand that they are not US citizens. The issue is that I always read the words of the Declaration as a good declaration for everyone, not just US citizens.

We declared a "war on terror" not a war on Bolivia, or Egypt, or other nations. We cannot return these prisoners to their nation states because their will be no end to war on Terror.

You're point is right on the spot.

Sent by Bob | 3:43 PM | 12-5-2007

The Constitution does not define rights in terms of citizens, of "people" or "persons", and also proscribes to powers of the government. Just because the detainees are not citizens does not mean that they have no rights, in my opinion.

Sent by Brett in Bountiful, UT | 3:53 PM | 12-5-2007

IMO, the detainees are NOT U.S. citizens, they are non-uniform wearing fighters.
IF they were wearing uniforms, they could be released after the combat in Afghanistan ends. (whenever, that happens)
SINCE, they were NOT wearing uniforms, they ARE armed, murderous, thugs who would kill you (or your family) because you are not Muslim (aka. Taliban).

If you want to release these armed, murderous, thugs into the world, adopt them, and give them a chance to kill you (and your family) you should have your bleeding heart examined for exessive, cronic, and fatal stupidity.

BTW, the U.S. constitution is a contract between the federal government, the several states, our citizens, and "invited" guests. Anyone else is NOT protected! (Even in downtown Liberalville)

Sent by Harold | 4:11 PM | 12-5-2007

What I can't understand is why no one ever calls into question the fundamental premise advanced by people like David Rivkin: that the U.S. is officially "at war" with terrorists, just like it was with the Axis powers of both World Wars, or like it was with Spain during the Spanish American War, and thus the "terrorists" held at Guantanamo Bay should be treated exactly like the prisoners of war were in these historical armed conflicts.

What I'm wondering is, how can a traditional armed conflict between states or between factions within a state (civil wars) be legitimately compared to our current "war on terrorists" or "war on terrorism" (however you want to put it)?

How is this a traditional, state-against-state kind of war? I just don't understand that and have never heard it fully explained.

Yet this is precisely what Rivkin and his ilk constantly suggest with little objection from anyone. His comparison of our current situation with actual wars (the U.S. Civil War, or WWI and WWII) that had actual ends--with one side officially surrendering, strikes me as incredibly bogus. Yet no one today on Talk of the Nation questioned it.

Are the detainees at Guantanamo Bay all from Iraq or Afghanistan, and if so, were they all involved in fighting against U.S. troops in some offical "wartime" capacity? The answer to this question is most certainly "no," but a "yes" answer would be the only way people like Rivkin and the Bush administration would be even remotely warranted in making comparisons to prisoners of war in "wartime" picked up on a "battlefield."

Are we in a state of war with Bahrain? What about Kuwait? How about Saudi Arabia? Numerous Gitmo detainees are/were from these nations. Is Rivkin suggesting that the U.S. can justify holding these detainees indefinitely because we are "at war" with individual people, instead of countries? If so, that is an interesting re-read of the U.S. Constitution and what constitutes a "war". . . . . .

Sent by Tam | 4:19 PM | 12-5-2007

Those who support the suspension of the Constitution always assume they will never be the target of those in power. Sinclair Lewis' novel "It Can't Happen Here", currently out of print, details almost exactly the current political situation in which the U.S. now finds itself, especially when all opposition to those in power are referred to as traitors.

Sent by J. R. Madden | 5:51 PM | 12-5-2007

I am appalled by the caller who made sweeping statements that were ludicrous in their simplicity: All detainees would slit an American's throat if given the chance; throwing someone in prison without judicial review is fine as long as an authority decides they want to do so; the intelligence retrived from torture is accurate (although most studies and historical evidence show it is deeply flawed; and that this behavior by people in power does not threaten each and every one of us. Forget our basic rights, just make sure we get the services we want. Bread and circuses in ancient Rome would have obviously fulfilled this caller(unless he was one of the slaves).
The detainees' rights are vital to all of us because when any government has the right to abrogate human rights so egregiously to any one group, the rights of everyone else are threatened.

Sent by JKB | 10:49 AM | 12-6-2007