Another Falsehood Exposed

By Dan Froomkin
Special to
Friday, November 21, 2008; 12:41 PM

When and if the curtain is fully pulled back on President Bush's "war on terror," how much of what he said will turn out to be true, and how much of it will turn out to be fantasy and lies?

The more we learn, the more it seems the appeals to fear that Bush used to rally the nation behind him were unfounded.

The latest example came yesterday in a federal courtroom in Washington, where a Bush-appointed judge ordered the release of five Algerian men who had been held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp for almost seven years.

The president showcased the men in his seminal, bellicose 2002 State of the Union speech as part of a litany of alleged threats -- some averted, some not -- facing the nation. "Our soldiers, working with the Bosnian government, seized terrorists who were plotting to bomb our embassy," Bush said at the time.

But once detainees were given the right to challenge their detention, the government dropped the embassy allegation.

This was presumably because there was even less evidence to support it than the remaining charges -- which the judge yesterday disclosed consisted of one unsubstantiated allegation by an unnamed source of undetermined credibility.

The Coverage

William Glaberson writes in the New York Times: "A federal judge issued the Bush administration a sharp setback on Thursday, ruling that five Algerian men have been held unlawfully at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp for nearly seven years and ordering their release.

"It was the first hearing on the government's evidence for holding detainees at Guantánamo. The judge, Richard J. Leon of Federal District Court in Washington, said the government's secret evidence in the case had been weak: what he described as 'a classified document from an unnamed source' for its central claim against the men, with little way to measure credibility.

"'To rest on so thin a reed would be inconsistent with this court's obligation,' Judge Leon said."

The men were "among a group of Guantánamo inmates who won a 5-to-4 Supreme Court ruling in June that the detainees had a constitutional right to seek their release in federal court. The decision said a 2006 law unconstitutionally stripped them of their right to contest their imprisonment in habeas corpus lawsuits. . . .

"Robert C. Kirsch, one of the six detainees' lawyers from the law firm Wilmer Hale, said the case showed 'the human cost of what can happen when mistakes are made at the highest levels of our government, and no one has the courage to acknowledge those mistakes.' . . .

"'The decision by Judge Leon lays bare the scandalous basis on which Guantánamo has been based -- slim evidence of dubious quality,' said Zachary Katznelson, legal director at Reprieve, a British legal group that represents detainees."

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