One Step Forward, Two or Three Steps Back…

This just in… it looks like The Bush Administration actually plans on complying with a federal court order telling it what to do over an aspect of the War on Terror TM… in this case, a decision appears to have been made to comply with the order of Manhattan federal court judge Jed Rakoff to turn over the names of over 500 detainees at Guantanamo Bay pursuant to the Associated Press’s Freedom of Information Act request.
This is stunning news, not insofar as the names will be all that “new;” probably most of the detainees’ names are known insofar as hundreds of them have brought habeas corpus proceedings and other legal challenges to their detentions; indeed, regular readers know this is a peculiar interest of this blog, probably the only place in cyberspace, if not on Earth to have made it a practice to try to interview their attorneys on an ongoing basis (and yes, there are at least two more interviews currently in the works, and hopefully more after that.) No… it’s stunning because it appears that the Bush Administration may actually (finally) be willing to have some aspect of its governance overseen by a coordinate branch of government, or at least, show respect to another branch. Or is it… Could this be just another tactic?
Alas, more news today is not so good. The Grey Lady gives us this troubling account that, in order to evade the (incredibly limited) federal court oversight of its operations at Gitmo, the interrogation and detention activities at Afghanistan’s Bagram A.F.B. have been stepped up, and are peculiarly nasty. For one thing, both facilities now hold (or “holed”?) around 500 prisoners; Bagram was intended to hold far less. Some abuse at Bagram has resulted in prisoner deaths (though not yet at Gitmo, where things are better monitored and less “ad hoc”.)
This is a tough one. Human rights lawyers don’t want bad legal precedent before the Gitmo situation is sorted out which might screw up… the Gitmo situation. (Afghanistan, unlike Gitmo, is in the war zone itself, and anecdotally, there may be more direct combatants detained there than in Gitmo, which seems to be a mixed bag of persons picked up from the battlefield, turned in by the Northern Alliance, by Pakistani security, and from other places.) Plus, the Afghans themselves may well take over Bagram operations in a year or so, at which point, at least some due process under Afghan law might be afforded.
Further, according to the Times, some of those at Bagram may have been moved out of CIA “ghost prisons” or other black holes… presumably after their lack of intelligence value was established.
Besides Gitmo and Bagram, the ghost prisons remain, I understand we’re holding people at Diego Garcia (our base on that Indian Ocean island), and of course, elsewhere, and there are friendly other countries like Egypt and Jordan and others holding (and, allegedly, torturing) people for us.
It’s all not a pretty picture.
Let me just throw this one out there: if we as a nation behave no better than barbarians, what right do we really have to complain when others behave as barbarians toward us? Do we really want to create a civilized behavior race to the bottom? Do we? Just asking…