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Judge Smacks Down Obama on Gitmo Access

A Reagan-appointed judge who has often issued strongly-worded opinions has issued a ruling that the New York Times describes as “scathing,” hammering the Obama DOJ for seeking to deny attorneys representing Gitmo detainees access to their clients.

The case involves several detainees who had previously filed habeas corpus petitions with a federal court but dismissed them voluntarily — on the condition that they be allowed to refile them later and maintained communication with their attorneys. But the government then refused to allow such access unless the attorneys signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that limited their access not only to their clients but to evidence that they previously had access to when there were active cases pending in the courts — even to their own work product developed during the previous case. The judge’s reaction was rather unequivocal:

In a scathing, 32-page opinion, Royce C. Lamberth, the chief judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled in the detainees’ favor, characterizing the government’s arguments using terms like “untenable,” “quite preposterous,” “even less persuasive,” and “does not pass the smell test.”

The judge wrote: “The court, whose duty it is to secure an individual’s liberty from unauthorized and illegal executive confinement, cannot now tell a prisoner that he must beg leave of the executive’s grace before the court will involve itself. This very notion offends the separation-of-powers principles and our constitutional scheme.”

Though these cases all stem from Bush-era detentions, the new access rules came from the Obama administration and were only put in place earlier this year. One of the defense attorneys has it about right:

David Remes, one of the lawyers for detainees who asked the judge to reject the government’s move, hailed the ruling. He called the proposed new rules “egregious, because it would have removed the courts from the equation and left the Gitmo commander a law unto himself.”

“The government has never reconciled itself to the fact that the detainees have a right to counsel and has put one obstacle after another in our path,” he said. “I have no illusion that this ends the struggle. The government will continue to find ways to obstruct us. We’ll just have to fight them one by one as they come. But it’s terrific that we won this round.”

He’s right. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have been absolutely consistent in doing everything they can to prevent even a chance of justice for detainees. You can read the full ruling here.

Comments

  1. morgandourif says

    I really wish I could vote for Obama this November (because, no, I’m not enough of an idiot to think that he’s “just the same” as Romney, despite the similarities between both parties on some issues) without holding my nose in the process.

  2. slc1 says

    This is the type of ruling from the courts that is needed to stop the excesses of the executive branch, as Congress has failed in its duty to do its job. My hat’s off to the judge here. We need more judges to stand up like him and call a halt to these executive practices.

  3. Randomfactor says

    In my more hopeful moments I fantasize that Obama’s continuing Bush policies deliberately, so as to have them ruled illegal by the courts. Merely reversing course in the executive branch would allow a future president to go back there.

    Of course, prosecuting the previous occupant of the White House would’ve made the point better…

  4. d cwilson says

    Our left is further right than our right was in WWII, when we were fighting Nazis ffs.

    It’s been a decades long process of slowly moving the Overton Window into what used to be called batshit crazy territory. I think we’re on the cusp of reversing the trend (the right has finally reached the point where they scare the shit out of most people), but it will probably take decades to shift things back to something that looks halfway balanced.

  5. David Marjanović says

    Of course, prosecuting the previous occupant of the White House would’ve made the point better…

    Bumper sticker:

    VISUALIZE
    A SPECIAL
    PROSECUTOR

  6. mantistoboggan says

    “I really wish I could vote for Obama this November without holding my nose in the process.”

    Right on. Sometimes you just have to vote for evil for evil’s sake.

    “In my more hopeful moments I fantasize that Obama’s continuing Bush policies deliberately, so as to have them ruled illegal by the courts.”

    I was not aware that this year’s hopium crop is as good as the 2008 batch.

  7. Usernames are smart says

    I was not aware that this year’s hopium crop is as good as the 2008 batch. —mantistoboggan #9

    You’re forgetting that Hopium is so strong, you are too busy chasin’ the dragon to ever notice the quality. Or care.

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