Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Military Tribunals Reach Ridiculous Results

If this report doesn't piss you off, nothing will. In late 2001, a 19-year old German, Murat Kurnaz, was taken from Pakistan to Guantanamo. The intelligence community found him not to be a threat, concluding he was in Pakistan to visit religious sites and had "simply chosen a bad time to travel." But for some reason, the military decided to put him before a military tribunal, which concluded he should be held indefinitely. The evidence against Kurnaz included a memo that he prayed during the U.S. National Anthem and was interested in prisoner transfers and guard rotation. It also stated that Kurnaz was possibly estimating the height of the detention fence when he asked how high the basketball hoop was. The evidence for him included intelligence reports that he had no connection to terrorists. But the tribunal found for the military. A federal court ruled for Kurnaz, but the military appealed and it is before the Supreme Court today. Kurnaz was finally released in 2006, but the case continues.

Perhaps the most troubling statement by the Government in this case is that one of the factors used to determine if someone is an enemy combatant is "the passage of time." That suggests to me that even if Kurnaz wasn't a threat when he was picked up, if his treatment has created a dislike (oh let's say it - hatred) of the United States (a seemingly reasonable result) we can keep him locked up as long as we want. To some extent, therefore, Guantanamo is filling a need it itself creates.

Look, it might be necessary to have some sort of military tribunal process (although I'm not convinced), but unless the military is hiding some incredibly convincing evidence in this case, it seems clear the current system does not work if Kurnaz wasn't let out much earlier.

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