YOUR VIEWS | Gitmo Detainees Have Rights, Too


To the editor:

In Sanford Horns letter in the Times (July 22-28) castigating the writer of a previous letter on the subject of the Guantanamo Bay prisoner situation, he displays an obvious misunderstanding about that issue.

At the outset, for example, he asserts the prisoners are captured enemy combatants. Actually, some are, but more were not, as adjudged by the several military commissions/panels created by the Bush administration. They were to make the determination whether a detainee was an enemy combatant. This distinction among prisoners affected how they would be handled by the government. Those not in the combatant category constitute the bulk of the approximately 530 prisoners released over the past several years. Most have been sent to their home countries, which include Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt and Afghanistan.

More serious is Mr. Horns confusion about the issue of detainees legal rights. Thus he states that because they are not being on American soil, they arent entitled to the rights an accused would have in the United States; that they do not have a right of due process in American courts.

In fact, three Supreme Court decisions (in 2004, 2006 and 2008) have rejected the Bush administrations insistence that they are and should remain without legal protection, most importantly, habeas corpus rights. Most explicitly, the decision last year Boumediene v. Bush affirmed that right and held that they could challenge their prison confinement in federal courts.

Actually, such a federal court in New York City is currently conducting the trial of Ahmed Ghalani, charged with participating in the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in East Africa. Of course, he has the same rights, as do citizens in federal courts. He was arrested that year in Pakistan and spent most of the time since then at Guantanamo Bay. Moreover, four of his accomplices were tried earlier and are now in federal maximum-security prisons. They are among at least a dozen others convicted of terrorist acts in similar prisons. There reportedly has never been an escape from these kinds of jails.

On the issue of immigration, Mr. Horn is again wrong: he asserts that the government has made no valid attempt to curtail the overrunning of our borders by illegals. Hes either unaware of the fact or ignoring that the United States is now constructing a multi-billion dollar fence on the Texas border with Mexico, as well as installing sensors, observation posts and increasing the army of agents along the border. Id say that could be described as valid, though its not at all clear what he means by that word.

Jim Eady