"A lawsuit filed today against U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld reveals the gratuitous cruelty inflicted on a foreign student held without charges for more than two years as an "enemy combatant" in a South Carolina naval brig"
reads an article by Human Rights watch.
The legal points are these:
* Arrested by FBI December 2001 as a material witness
in the investigation of the September 11 attacks
* Later indicted for credit card fraud and lying to the FBI.
* Designated an enemy combatant in 2003 and criminal charges dismissed
So, the material witness status was abused to hold him, the criminal charges were evidently fake, and he has been held for almost four years on zero evidence of involvement in terrorism.
Let me add that it's always possible the Feds have enough evidence that a reasonable person, examining it, would conclude they are indeed protecting the public interest and not simply recklessly abusing the law. But that evidence should meet the standard that the agents involved are willing to face, as defendants in a criminal court, 12 reasonable people, because this is where they may end up when the hysteria dies down. If the evidence meets that standard, and if I were on the jury, I'd vote to acquit.
The fact that they haven't filed charges suggests to me they have simply habeased the corpus, i.e., held the guy incommunicado as long as possible to avoid the consequences of what everyone knows is a major law enforcement blunder.
What's really interesting to me is that the complaint al-Marri has filed indicates for the most part treatment that is grossly illegal by international law but common in American prisons.
Think about Susan MacDougal when you hear them:
* Confined 24/7 in a small cell with an opaque window covered with plastic.
* Not allowed to speak to his wife or children
* Allowed no newspapers, magazines, books (other than the Koran), radio or television.
* Allowed no personal property.
* Out-of-cell time has been limited to three showers and three short periods of solitary recreation a week, but sometimes none.
* Denied basic hygiene products such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and toilet paper.
* Water frequently turned off.
* Denied socks or footwear
* Temperature in his cell lowered drastically and no warm clothes provided
* Threatened to be sent to Egypt or Saudi Arabia to be tortured and sodomized, his wife raped in front of him.
* Not permitted him to meet with a Muslim cleric, to have a prayer mat, to cover his head while he prays, to know in which direction to pray toward Mecca, to know the time, so he could know when to pray
* Denied medical and mental health care
Susan MacDougal endured many of these conditions. So do many inmates. Granted, the impact of abuse is cumulative, such that the more kinds of abuse and the greater the frequency and length, the closer it is to torture. MacDougal faced a 5 or 6 or 7 on a scale that goes to 10. Al Marri is maybe a point higher than her. But this is serious stuff: 10s die or become permanently insane.
This is an Inquisition, not a legal process.
If the treatment of al-Marri is ultimately found to be a violation of the Geneva accords, as would be happen if (a) his allegations are true and (b) a fair tribunal ruled, the abuse of prisoners in parts of the American penal system might also get a long-overdue look. Most prisoners are unsympathetic figures, but they are human beings too.