There are many things wrong with Guantanamo, the most basic one being that it exists at all. It is a place where human rights, and humans too, go to die. People have been tortured there, rectally force-fed, and subjected to all manner of indignities and kept in prison without being brought to trial because the government has felt that it could not win a legal case against them.
Now comes yet another story of abuse, but with a new twist, in which president Obama’s “most transparent administration in history” resorts to unprecedented levels of secrecy in order to avoid releasing a prisoner who is close to death.
In an extremely rare legal manoeuvre, the Obama administration has challenged a legal request to free a hunger-striking Guantánamo Bay detainee entirely in secret.
US officials said the objection to freeing Tariq Ba Odah, who is undernourished to the point of starvation, and the decision to challenge his legal gambit outside of public view, are indications that the Obama administration will fight tenaciously to stop detainees from seeking freedom in federal courts, despite Barack Obama’s oft-repeated pledge to close Guantánamo.
Ba Odah, a 36-year-old Yemeni who has spent 13 years at Guantánamo, currently risks dying in the Guantánamo Bay facility where he has spent a third of his life. He weighs 74 pounds (34kg), the result of years of rejecting food and forced feeding through a tube inserted through his nose into his stomach.
The official indicated that the motive for sealing the motion was to shield the government from embarrassment, rather than protecting classified information.
National-security lawyers said they could not think of a case where the government had filed a sealed challenge to a habeas petition.
“That would be unique, in my experience,” said attorney Joshua Dratel, who has represented several accused terrorists and Guantánamo detainees.