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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Were a third of Guantanamo prisoners there by mistake?

In a post yesterday I talked about some details coming out of New Yorker writer Jane Mayer's new book about the Bush administration's "war on terror" and the issue of the Red Cross's confidentiality rule. More about the book's contents has come out today, which I originally included as an update to that post. But they are so important that I am reposting that update here:

The Washington Post today has more details from Mayer's new book, including the "revelation" (I put that in quotes because anyone paying attention already knew this basic fact) that a C.I.A. analyst had told the White House back in 2002 that up to a third of the Guantanamo detainees were there by mistake. According to the Post article:

But a top aide to Vice President Cheney shrugged off the report and squashed proposals for a quick review of the detainees' cases, author Jane Mayer writes in "The Dark Side," scheduled for release next week.

"There will be no review," the book quotes Cheney staff director David Addington as saying. "The president has determined that they are ALL enemy combatants. We are not going to revisit it."

There's more:

According to Mayer, the analyst estimated that a full third of the camp's detainees were there by mistake. When told of those findings, the top military commander at Guantanamo at the time, Major Gen. Michael Dunlavey, not only agreed with the assessment but suggested that an even higher percentage of detentions -- up to half -- were in error. Later, an academic study by Seton Hall University Law School concluded that 55 percent of detainees had never engaged in hostile acts against the United States, and only 8 percent had any association with al-Qaeda.

This makes it absolutely incredible that anyone, least of all presidential candidate John McCain (not to mention members of the U.S. Supreme Court such as A. Scalia), would question the right of habeas corpus for the Guantanamo prisoners. But as we know, they did, in the strongest possible terms, and the court decision was only 5-4. That's one more reason why issues like Obama's position on the FISA bill really do matter: We are walking the fine line of abandoning the Bill of Rights or reinterpreting it out of existence.

Glenn Greenwald: Has also posted about Mayer's book today, well worth reading. And, Update Sunday July 13, Frank Rich has a long column inspired by Mayer's revelations.

Update: McCain Insults Belarus! As attentive readers know, yesterday McCain had to apologize for his campaign co-chair, former Senator Phil Gramm, who called the U.S. a "nation of whiners" over the economy. According to a news report today, McCain, when asked if Gramm might be Treasury Secretary in a McCain administration, responded: "I think Senator Gramm would be in serious consideration for ambassador to Belarus, although I'm not sure the citizens of Minsk would welcome that." This seems to imply that Belarus is not a nice place, and also that only the sensibilities of the people living in its capital need to be taken account. Not only is McCain in trouble over the economy, his foreign policy skills aren't so great either!

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