Obama quoted the judge who sentenced shoe bomber Richard Reid, saying the way the United States treats detainees “is the measure of our own liberties.”
What the president did not discuss, and may not have known, was that on May 22, lawyers for several detainees had filed an emergency motion in Washington arguing that rather than face newly instituted, religiously repugnant groin searches, their clients — many on a hunger strike — were canceling attorney meetings and phone calls to family members.
Last week, Federal District Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth noted Obama’s use of “our own liberties” in his July 11 opinion, in which, among other things, he barred U.S. guards from continuing the searches.
Since May 3, at least twice or even four times, when a detainee left his cell and returned — always shackled — a guard was required to use a flat hand “to press against the groin to detect anything foreign attached to the body,” and again with a flat hand “to frisk the detainee’s buttocks to ensure no contraband is hidden there,” according to the Lamberth opinion.
The guards were also to wave a handheld wand metal detector over the detainee’s entire body, including the groin and buttocks area, but this time keeping the wand about “one to two inches from the detainee’s body.”
Lamberth said such actions were “religiously and culturally abhorrent” to Muslim detainees.
In 2009, a review team headed by then-Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Patrick M. Walsh found that detainees who’d been told they could leave but had not been released were showing “extreme frustration.” Walsh recommended “a humane treatment standard” and “continued interagency process to resolve these detainees’ future.”
More than four years have passed, and 86 of the present 166 Guantanamo detainees, cleared to go to their home country or another country willing to accept them, remain there. We shouldn’t be surprised that there’ve been riots and, since February, a major hunger strike.
What makes the Mitchell quote relevant is that military attorneys began fighting in court to keep the invasive search techniques despite what their commander-in-chief had said in his NDU speech.
It’s been that way at Guantanamo from the start, when the Bush administration set up the facility as a place outside the United States where detainees would have no rights.
It was established as a “detention facility” rather than as a “corrections facility” because, as Lamberth pointed out, under the Navy’s own regulations, those incarcerated at a corrections facility have unconditional access to their attorneys; detainees don’t.