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The Hamdan Trial: Yet Another Step Away From The Rule Of Law

We have First Monday — put together with the Alliance for Justice — at 3 pm ET/noon PT today.  

Specifically about some of the work the Center For Constitutional Rights, the ACLU and others have done…fighting indefinite detention, torture, rendition, all those things that the Bush Administration denounced in public while encouraging them vociferously behind their own hand-drawn veil of state secrets.  Hope you can join us.

From the very beginning, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the ACLU have stood for the rule of law. Trying to stop the Bush Administration’s dismissal of long-held, long-fought-for human rights laws which the United States previously championed.

Before we became a nation, George Washington’s decision to treat prisoners humanely stood in stark contrast to the treatment our soliders were given by the British, who argued that torture and other harsh methods were perfectly acceptable because American rebels were enemy combatants who refused to accede to British law and obeisance to the king. 

Today, we have become that which we sought to throw off at our nation’s founding. To our shame.

The Hamdan defense case rested last week, with closing arguments this morning.  The case is expected to be in the jury’s hands later today.  There are things I want to bring to everyone’s attention:

…The defense team…asked if the jury was surprised to learn that Hamdan’s boss, Abdullah Tabarak, in charge of bin Laden’s security detail, including bodyguards and drivers, had himself been detained at Guantánamo Bay but was released and sent home to Morocco in 2004. And they shared with the jury video footage of Hamdan taken soon after he was captured, showing him shackled, hooded and scared, as he was badgered by a U.S. military interrogator and in obvious pain from sitting too long trussed about the legs. 

Yet, through it all, it seemed that Team Hamdan could barely solicit a raised eyebrow among the jury members. Maybe such revelations would have shocked a military jury in the past. But the trampling of rights at Guantánamo Bay has so permeated the national consciousness (if not its conscience) that such abuse seems almost commonplace — a simple byproduct of the war on terror that must be endured…. (emphasis mine)

Glenn has a great interview with Ben Wizner of the ACLU who has been working on Hamdan’s defense team at Gitmo. As Ben points out, Hamdan was allowed to remain in the courtroom to hear testimony from Special Forces personnel about his own torture despite its high level of classification because "[t]he government doesn’t mind revealing that information to detainees because it doesn’t plan ever to release them." 

Andy Worthington has a few choice words about the trial proceedings, including this:

…The Commissions’ former chief prosecutor, Col. Davis resigned in October 2007, complaining that his superiors had politicized the process, and explaining that he could not continue in his job because he refused to take part in trials that allowed evidence obtained through torture. In February 2008, Col. Davis reported that, during a discussion of the Nuremberg Trials with the Defense Department’s chief counsel William J. Haynes II, in which Davis noted that there had been some acquittals, which had "lent great credibility to the proceedings," Haynes told him, "We can’t have acquittals. We’ve been holding these guys for years. How can we explain acquittals? We have to have convictions."

I’ve been reading Jane Mayer’s book, The Dark Side, and it’s been giving me nightmares. Because it is the stuff of nightmares for a lawyer who takes a commitment to the rule of law and justice seriously. In the recent NYTimes book review, Alan Brinkley hits this head on:

…The tactics the president denounced were precisely those he had authorized and encouraged in the growing network of secret prisons around the world. The detainees in these scattered sites — many of them innocent — have been held for months and years without charges, without lawyers, without notification to their families and often without respite from torture for weeks and months at a time. The Bush administration’s response to the Abu Ghraib scandal was not to stop the behavior, but to try to hide it more effectively. 

No one knows how many people were rounded up and spirited away into these secret locations, although the number is very likely in the thousands. No one knows either how many detainees have died once in custody. Nor is there any solid information about the many detainees who have been the victims of what the United States government calls “extraordinary rendition,” the handing over of detainees to other governments, mostly in the Middle East, whose secret police have no qualms about torturing their prisoners and face no legal consequences for doing so.

This is not who we are supposed to be, who we ought to be. Exposing this is one step forward, fighting it directly is necessary — and incredibly difficult and thankless work.  As folks at the CCR and ACLU can tell you, they get called traitors and worse every day for standing up for the principles enshrined in our nations laws, its Constitution and its Bill of Rights. And thank god they do so. 

Please take some time later today at 3 pm ET/noon PT to speak with Vince Warren from CCR and folks from the ACLU who fight these battles every day. For all of us.

(YouTube — Vince Warren discussing CCR’s work on human rights issues before the SCOTUS on Democracy Now.)

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com