Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power Hardcover – Jun 27 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Margulies, a Minneapolis lawyer and civil rights activist, served as lead counsel in Rasul v. Bush, successfully petitioning the Supreme Court to extend the right of judicial review to all prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. This book, Margulies's first, minutely chronicles the attempts of the present administration to extend the bounds of presidential authority while limiting official culpability. Breaking new ground by comprehensively analyzing the government's legal reasoning and deconstructing it in the light of historical precedent, Margulies states: "The Bush Administration has not provided a complete explanation for its detention policy. (Part of the motivation for this book is that no one else has either.)" Interspersed with accounts of his fascinating and frustrating attempts to obtain access to his British client, Shafiq Rasul, Margulies shines light on the theory and practice of indefinite military detention, peering into a self-contained, Kafkaesque universe of our own creation barely 90 miles from American shores. Accessible to nonlawyers, the book also offers full citations for those who wish to do further research. Margulies's clear explications of intricate legal points move his narrative effortlessly from the signing of the Geneva Conventions through the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, to the myriad cases of the detainees in Guantánamo. (July)
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In Rasul v.Bush, the Supreme Court affirmed the right of prisoners in U.S. military custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to challenge the legality of their detention in federal court. As one of the lead counsel on behalf of the detainees in that case, law professor and civil-rights attorney Margulies is uniquely qualified to narrate the legal struggles surrounding the prison that was built to evade legal oversight. Infused with firsthand accounts of both interrogation room and courtroom, Margulies' narrative is lucid, precise, and made urgent by recent legislation, currently before the Supreme Court, that purports to render Rasul meaningless. Most compelling, however, is that Margulies never lets the legal blow-by-blow obscure the historical and political import of Camp Delta, where preservation of prisoners' "debility, dependence, and dread" trumps all other concerns and even shapes the Bush administration's interpretation of the law. Timed to coincide with the Supreme Court's forthcoming ruling on jurisdiction over Guantanamo, this powerful selection deserves all the attention it will receive. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Inside This Book(Learn More)
In the Introduction, we saw for the first time-and apparently in spite of her best efforts-the methods of Sergeant Lacey, who, according to an FBI agent on the scene, grabbed a prisoner's genitals in the course of an interrogation. Read the first page
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The book is written from a lawyer's perspective and lays out clearly the history of the Guantanamo prison and the legal battles over the treatment of prisoners there. As the author stresses, the torture tactics have done immense damage to American prestige yet produced little if any valuable intelligence. This failure should not be a surprise, since most of the prisoners are either innocent of terrorist activity or were Taliban small-fry with no connection to September 11 or other attacks on U.S. targets. That hundreds of these pathetic men are still incarcerated speaks volumes about the indecency of the Bush Administration and its inability to admit that it ever makes mistakes.
Fortunately, the Supreme Court and the U.S. Senate have stepped in to curb the worst abuses and to restore some sanity to our detention policies. They have partially rescued America's good name and commitment to the rule of law. However, until officials of the Bush Administration are put on trial for violations of the War Crimes Act and the Torture Act, the stain on our national honor will not be fully erased.
The author, Joseph Margulies, is an attorney at Mac Arthur Justice Center, and a law professor at Northwestern University Law School in Chicago. He has been honored with the prestigious Sullivan Award (2005) for the commendable service he did in protecting our civil liberties, and also for challenging the detention policies of the Bush administration at Guantanamo Bay. At a time when the members and the chairmen of the relevant oversight committees of both the Congress and the Senate (the House and Senate Judiciary Committee, e.g.) have done nothing to either halt or restrain the blatantly unconstitutional policies (the Supreme Court has now clearly said so) and atrocities of the Bush Whitehouse, it is admirable that the author has strived, often pro bono, to force the Bush White House, in federal courts, to abide by our constitution and also the Geneva Conventions. (The White House has now said that it will abide by the Geneva Conventions!). By striving so courageously to rescue the Guantanamo Bay detainees from a legal Black Hole, he has won the admiration of decent people from around the world, and we should consider ourselves fortunate that we have a man of his caliber and decency living amongst us.
Writes Margulies: "The Bush administration claims all the authority that could conceivably flow to the executive branch during a time of armed conflict, but accepts none of the restrictions. The result is unchecked, almost imperial power: the power to define the enemy, to act against this enemy anywhere in the world, to imprison him indefinitely without legal process and under any conditions, and to prevent review of any of these discretionary actions by the courts. All of this power is limited to the president's promise to exercise it wisely. Nowhere is this power, and its abuse, more evident than at Guantanamo Bay."
Further, he states: "In the end, the detentions at Guantanamo are important not simply -- and perhaps not even principally- because of the unpardonable treatment the men and boys have been forced to endure, and not simply because of the unprecedented legal position the Administration has taken to defend this state of affairs. Guantanamo is important, as well, because of what it reveals about the Administration's vision of presidential power, and the lengths to which it will go to defend this radical vision."
"What distinguishes us from terrorists is our devotion to the rule of law," he has said. He is confident that "sooner or later the U. S. government would see Guantanamo as a big mistake". Well, a majority of learned people all over the world already think so, and now even the United States Supreme Court has said so. It is shocking that the man who articulated this absurd policy, attorney general Alberto Gonzalez, is still in office, leading our Justice Department. What a shame! The author is certain that the Bill of Rights will eventually prevail, just as it did in the Japanese internment cases during World War II. "At that time people thought it was a great idea. Now we recognize it as shameful. This will happen to Guantanamo as well," the author has said. I only hope he is right.
Margulies, in a very readable book, sifts much of the sophistry used by the Executive's lawyers (and supporting sophists) to justify its paradigm shift, concluding:
"It is a sad day when competent lawyers who are asked to play this role [of assisting the Bush administration with a conscious desire to evade and circumvent the requirements of the law] agree to do so. If the rule of law is to be silenced during war, lawyers should not be the ones who silence it."
However, Margulies retreats from any attempt at comparing the Executive's secret worldwide CIA torture centers with the former Soviet gulags. One can understand this in terms of magnitude. Fortunately, America has not approached the millions harmed or killed or murdered in the old Soviet gulags. But elementally, which Margulies focuses on throughout the book, aren't they the same?
In both the gulags and terror centers, governments have authorized or commanded the barbaric and depraved treatment of a human being, resulting in grave harm or serious harm or death, for the purpose of enforcing or justifying or extending their ideology or set of beliefs.
I'm grateful to Margulies for writing this book. I'm more grateful that America still has individuals (e.g. Marulies, Ratner, Swift, Katyal et al) and groups that are willing, to immediately shine a light on our government's dark side. In the beginning all they had was a flashlight. Five years later they had a very intense searchlight!
* As it turns out our Supreme Court's decision, Hamdan v Rumsfeld, published after Margulies' book, lit up the Executive's "dark side", in a paradigm shifting way. However, it was the antithesis of the Executive's paradigm shift. It has truncated if not ended this Executive's very obstinate and likely criminal foray to the dark side.
I have known Mamdouh Habib and his wife Maha for over a year now. I spent 5 months investigating the theft of a mobile phone from their home during a raid by Australian law enforcement agencies. I revealed a cover-up and a simply strategy - denial.
Take it from me, Mamdouh IS innocent. Mamdouh and his wife Maha are two of the most beautiful people I know and, even as an atheist, through them I have come to appreciate - if not love - the Muslim faith and its followers.
I am currently aiding them in their fight to regain Mamdouh's passport - a fundamental right, yet something denied because the Australian government is as corrupt and despicable as the US regime.
Love to all who read this book, and see truth as the ultimate goal!
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