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November 20, 2008

Federal Judge Orders 5 GITMO Detainees Released "Forthwith"

Getting judges involved in national security matters, what could go wrong?

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon, in the first ruling to carry out the Supreme Court’s June decision on detainees’ rights, ordered the federal government to release five Guantanamo Bay detainees “forthwith.” The judge found, however, that the government had justified the continued imprisonment of a sixth detainee, Belkacem ben Sayah.

The judge, in an unusual added comment, suggested to senior government leaders that they forgo an appeal of his ruling on freeing the five prisoners, suggesting that “seven years is enough” in captivity. He argued that the government could pursue whatever legal issues it wished to while defending on appeal his ruling in the case of ben Sayah.

One of those covered in this decision is Lakhdar Boumediene. It was Boumedinene who was the named defendant in the Supreme Court case which granted foreign nationals, held outside of US territory access to American courts.

Lawfare! It's Awesome.

Thanks to Gabe who is too busy working to blog for you. Just remember who really cares about you morons.

UPDATE: Gabe sends this along in email.

Judge Leon has been extremely fair in all his war on terror cases. If he says the classified documents provided by the government do not credibly establish that these five men are enemy combatants, I am inclined to believe him. That he did, in fact, rule that the sixth should continue to be detained reinforces the idea that he is giving some deference to the military's evidence.

Keep in mind that he is required at this point to rule on their habeas petitions. He originally upheld the MCA and was subsequently overruled by the Supreme Court. It was not his idea to allow overseas detained enemy combatants access to the federal courts. But now that they have been given such access, he is bound by his oath to give them a fair hearing.

I can't speak to Judge Leon's previous record or the benefit of the doubt he should get (though there's no reason to doubt Gabe on that) but I absolutely agree with his larger point...this isn't about any particular district judge's decision, it's about the Supreme Court.

Boumediene v. Bush basically offered these detainees a way to short circuit the military tribunals and threw open the court house doors by saying detainees had Habeas rights. They basically then told the lower courts to work out what other rights they had and the standards to adjudicate them. Judge Leon, like all other lower court judges have to figure this out for themselves but they are bound to give these guys fair hearings and that's not their fault, that's the Supreme Court's fault.

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posted by DrewM. at 12:40 PM

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