Just in case you think that habeas corpus does not matter, please read this detailed and harrowing post over to Obsidian Wings. It details the case of two Uighur detinees who have been cleared of all charges. They are innocent and the government accepts that they are innocent. But they are kept in Gitmo, in chairs, with their hands chained to the floor, in definitely. Money quote:

The government thinks it is perfectly acceptable not to inform counsel or the court when it determines that detainees are not enemy combatants, even though the allegation that they are enemy combatants is central to the justification for holding them. They seem to think, in addition, that it is acceptable to mislead counsel and the Court about the status of those detainees. They also think it is fine to keep those detainees at Guantanamo, to chain detainees who are not enemy combatants to the floor, and to deny them the right to communicate with anyone in the outside world, including relatives who think they are dead, and to confiscate things like photographs of their families as contraband. They claim that they cannot discuss the efforts they are making to place those detainees, and that they cannot release those detainees until those efforts, whatever they are, are completed, which will be “‘soon’ in kind of the hopeful sense of the word.”

Remember that this occurred while these people still had some basic habeas corpus rights:

Had these detainees not had the right to file for habeas corpus, none of us would know that they existed, let alone be able to read details of their incarceration, and what our government had to say in its own defense.
But habeas rights do not solve everything. To the best of my knowledge, the Uighur detainees are still at Guantanamo. The detainee Willett described as “the sleepy-eyed young man with the shy smile and the gentle manner” is still in jail, cleared of all charges but unable to go free.

The Graham/Kyl/Levin amendment that just passed is better than Graham’s first proposal. But it is important to remember that, as of now, these innocent men, handed over by bounty hunters in Pakistan, would have no access to courts. We would never have heard of them. They would be America’s “disappeared”. Anyone who cares about liberty in this country – a category that does not seem to include the bulk of Republicans any more – should be proud that the original Graham amendment did not pass. But chilled about what can now happen. In a free country. Whether you’re innocent or guilty.


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