Friday, November 07, 2008

Law School and Torture

Last week, three lawyers came to the school to speak about their experiences with Guantanamo Bay. One, a partner in a large private law firm, had done pro bono work for a group of Guantanamo Bay detainees. Another is president of a nonprofit legal organization that represented some of these detainees. Both of these men were involved in recent Supreme Court decisions--decisions by a conservative Supreme Court that sided against the Bush administration.
The third lawyer on the panel is an Air Force reservist. She was appointed as military defense counsel for a British resident in Guantanamo.
As you can imagine, it was quite fascinating.
Does the Constitution apply to Guantanamo Bay? It's technically owned by Cuba (wait a second...isn't Cuba, like, our enemy?) The US controls it. The Bush administration hoped to have a place controlled by the US where the Constitution didn't apply.
Are "enemy combatants" prisoners of war? The Bush administration prefers "enemy combatants" because there are rules for treating prisoners of war (in other words, you have to treat them decently--no torture allowed).
Is waterboarding torture? We sure thought so during WWII...
Is information gained by torture something that can be used in court--even when it's probably fake information?
Does a court need to be unbiased?
A number of military lawyers in charge of defending these prisoners have resigned in disgust--including the man put in charge of the defense. They felt the trials were a sham. The military lawyer on the panel agreed--but she still wanted to help her client, and she's stayed on.
It's clear that the Bush administration abused (and is still abusing) their power there. There are bad guys there, but there are also innocent people, who, if now released into the US, may prove a threat to the US because we've held and tortured them for the last seven years--and so they don't have the kindest feelings towards us.
The two-and-a-half-hour presentation was extremely interesting. You can find it here.
In any case, even if you're not an Obama fan, you can be grateful the Bush legacy of torture and false imprisonment will soon end.


Brentwell said...

Will hopefully end. Obama hasn't done anything yet.

Tim said...

Thanks for the correction.
I don't expect Obama to send them all home.
I do expect the torture to end--as of January 20th.
Sorting out the rest of the mess will take some time, especially since it won't be on the top of the to-do list.
The military lawyer was concerned that if Obama deals with the problem, idiots will come out and say, "See, we told you he's a terrorist/pallin' around with terrorists."
There's also the problem of letting people go that may be terrorists. If you let justice reign, there's always the chance of making a mistake.
The safer course would be to keep everyone locked up, regardless of whether we have actual evidence against them or not.
I hope Obama realizes that the safe way isn't always the best way.
I hope all these men get fair trials, and that the ones that are found innocent are released, even if it means one or two bad apples get released with them.
Sorting it out will take time.