Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

January 29, 2009


Pro Publica - An untold portion of the 600 detainees at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan were captured outside the country while engaged in peaceful activities, lawyers and court documents say, and imprisoned alongside Afghan warriors. The U.S. government has argued that battlefield rules put the prisoners beyond the reach of civilian justice, even though they weren't captured in the Afghan war zone.

A lawsuit by four Bagram detainees has revealed striking similarities between the prison in Afghanistan and the Guantanamo Bay facility. To determine the full measure of that resemblance, District Court Judge John D. Bates instructed government lawyers to turn over the total number of captives nabbed abroad. That crucial number was redacted from public court documents filed in the case. Recently, Bates has turned to the Obama administration, which recently put the Gitmo military commissions on hold, for guidance. . .

The Obama administration instructed prosecutors to ask judges in military commissions and civil courts to suspend cases involving Guantanamo detainees during his first evening in office. Judge Bates surprised lawyers in the Bagram case by following suit without any prompting.

In a court order last Thursday, Bates said he would "provide the new administration with the same type of opportunity [to offer new, specific detention policies] in these Bagram Airfield habeas cases." The Obama administration has until Feb. 20 to weigh in on Bagram.


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