This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.
Now we know why lawyers for the federal government have argued so strenuously for years that courts have no business reviewing the "evidence" used to justify the detention of suspects at the military facility at Guantanamo Bay. Nearly seven years after the prison received its first detainees in January of 2002, a federal judge has looked at the case against five Algerian suspects and ordered them released "forthwith." The evidence did not withstand judicial scrutiny, and chances are the same will happen with some other detainees.
Judge Richard J. Leon of the Federal District Court in Washington, D.C., ruled that there was no solid basis for holding the suspects, virtually scoffing at the government's case. The secret evidence used to justify keeping the suspects in detention was described by Judge Leon as "a secret document from an unnamed source," which left no way for the court to gauge its credibility. This is a landmark decision.
Judge Leon's ruling follows last June's Supreme Court decision giving detainees access to federal courts in order to dispute the grounds for their imprisonment. It is the first instance in which a court has actually reviewed Guantanamo files on individuals. Not surprisingly, the court found the evidence wanting.
The administration has consistently argued that detainees should not have access to courts because conventional notions of evidence do not apply when it comes to detaining international terrorists. Judge Leon, a Bush appointee, conceded as much, noting that the effect of the high-court decision was "to super-impose the habeas corpus process into the world of intelligence gathering."
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