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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Guantanamo Bay: Where The Constitution Is Used For Toilet Paper

It's been 10 years since the United States begain harboring people suspected of terrorism or aiding terrorism at Gunatanamo Bay.  Since then, 779 prisoners have been held at Gitmo to date, with 171 currently remaining there.  Most have either been released without charge, transferred to another country's facility, or have died while at Gitmo (8 have died so far, 6 by suspected suicide and 1 of cancer).  And to dispel any notion that the Obama administration has resulted in most of the releases, there were only 242 prisoners in Guantanamo when Obama took office.

In the month of July of 2005 alone, under the Bush administration, 173 detainees were released without charge and 69 were transferred to governments of other countries.  Of the 171 detainees currently imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, 89 men have been approved for transfer out of Gitmo unanimously by the military, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies whose opinion is relevant to those determinations.  However, no one has been transferred alive out of Gitmo in over a year, and neither the detaines, nor their attorneys, have been told by the U.S. government whether they are on the list of people approved for transfer.  Also of the detainees in Gitmo are 57 men who are from Yemen who are only being held because the US government does not want to release them back to the unstable country of Yemen (the infmaou shoe bomber who attempted to detonate an explosive on a flight to Detroit a few years ago was from Yemen).

I bring this up now because today marks the 10th anniversary of the day the first 20 detainees arrived at Guantanamo Bay and were held in outdoor cages that looked like dog kennels.  We saw their images in reddish orange jumpsuits on television and our media blasted them as dangerous terrorists who deserved to be treated worse than dogs.  Talking heads criticized human rights groups who demanded the detainees be provided with some sort of due process of law.  Politicians supported the torture (yes, it has been acknowledged by U.S. officials that detainees have been submitted to brutal interrogations involving stress positions, barking dogs, and sleep deprivation, and water boarding has been confirmed to have occurred to at least some detainees though it may have been prior to arrival at Guantanamo).

Lawyers came to the defense of those detained without any rights.  The U.S. government argued that the evidence used to detain the prisoners was classified and therefore the attorneys were not entitled to look at it.  Once judges began issue orders allowing defense attorneys to see some of the evidence used against their client, huge gaping holes were exposed.  Defense attorneys exploited evidence as fabricated, false, an often corrupt, some even finding exonerating proof.

People stripped of any rights and dignity and robbed from their lives: 779
People who have been released without charges after being held for years: 600
People cleared for transfer but still being held, some held for nearly a decade: 89
Children under 18 who have been held at Guantanamo: 15
People died in custody: 8
People convicted of any crime after trial or plea bargain: 6
People facing any formal charge who are still being held at Gitmo: 1

So, looking at the numbers, we now know that the vast majority of people detained at Gitmo have already been deemed to not be a threat to America and have no terrorist ties.  Knowing this, I'd like to paste a quote from a FBI agent that was originally posted in a 2005 article of the New York Times: "On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves and had been left there for 18, 24 hours or more."  We now know that this sort of thing happened to innocent people.  And, according to an affidavit by Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, a former aid to Secretary of State Colin Powell, top U.S. officials knew that the majority of detainees initially sent to Guantanamo Bay were probably innocent but kept them their for political reasons.  

How did we as an American society allow for so many innocent people to be locked up in secrecy in an offshore prison for so many years without any trial, formal charge, or credible evidence?  How have we justified it as long as we have?  How do we not care that many of these "enemy combatants" weren't captured on the battlefield, but were sold to the U.S. government by corrupt law enforcement in foreign countries who couldn't wait to collect a bounty for "anyone known to be a member of Al-Qaeda or support terrorism"?

And how have we now allowed for this to happen to our very own citizens here in the United States?  Don't think this could happen to you?  Read the National Defense Authorization Act that was signed into law by Preseident Obama on New Year's Eve.  That's right, if a U.S. citizen is suspected of terrorism here in thos country, you can be arrested and detained indefinitely without trial.

Better lock your door.  The nightmare that has been Guantanamo Bay for 779 detainees (not to mention their family members who must live without knowing their loved one's fate), could be your nightmare.

Better have a criminal defense attorney on speed dial, and you better lock your door from your government.

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