On Monday, one day after the New York Times and the Washington Post reported that the Obama administration was planning to introduce tribunals for the prisoners held in the U.S. prison at Bagram airbase, Afghanistan, the reason for the specifically timed leaks that led to the publication of the stories became clear.
The government was hoping that offering tribunals to evaluate the prisoners’ status would perform a useful PR function, making the administration appear to be granting important rights to the 600 or so prisoners held in Bagram, and distracting attention from the real reason for its purported generosity: a 76-page brief to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia [.pdf], submitted yesterday, in which the government attempted to claim that “Habeas rights under the United States Constitution do not extend to enemy aliens detained in the active war zone at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.”
The main reason for this brazen attempt to secure a PR victory before the appeal was filed is blindingly obvious to anyone who has been studying the Bagram litigation over the last five months. In April, Judge John D. Bates ruled that three foreign prisoners seized in other countries and “rendered” to Bagram, where they have been held for up to six years, had the right to challenge the basis of their detention in U.S. courts. [continued…]
The Obama administration supports extending three key provisions of the Patriot Act that are due to expire at the end of the year, the Justice Department told Congress in a letter made public Tuesday.
Lawmakers and civil rights groups had been pressing the Democratic administration to say whether it wants to preserve the post-Sept. 11 law’s authority to access business records, as well as monitor so-called “lone wolf” terrorists and conduct roving wiretaps.
The provision on business records was long criticized by rights groups as giving the government access to citizens’ library records, and a coalition of liberal and conservative groups complained that the Patriot Act gives the government too much authority to snoop into Americans’ private lives. [continued…]