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NYT Reporter: US "Has Flouted the Basic Principles of Justice" in War on Terror

Raymond Bonner in the left-wing New York Review of Books: "There are still hundreds of prisoners held without charge at Guantánamo, and it will in all likelihood be left to the new administration to deal with them. Until it does so, the United States will maintain its reputation as a country that has flouted the basic principles of justice and set a deplorable example for the world."

Globe-trotting Times reporter Raymond Bonner revealed his ideological hand in his review of four books about the war on terror in the March 18 edition of the left-wing New York Review of Books.


"Justice delayed is justice denied" is a guiding principle of the American criminal justice system. The Bush administration has ignored this principle with impunity, and America's image abroad has suffered greatly as a result.


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As the Bush administration, in the weeks after the September 11 attacks, began hurriedly drafting rules to try suspects, the most senior military lawyers, from all four services, were "appalled" at the lack of rights that the administration proposed granting the defendants. So we are told by Leigh Sales in Detainee 002: The Case of David Hicks. In general, she writes, the uniformed lawyers "wanted the same level of due process that was available under the Uniform Code of Military Justice," the criminal code for military courts-martial that is by and large respected as fair by civilian criminal defense lawyers. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that in 2001 and 2002, a senior Army lawyer, Colonel Lawrence J. Morris, had proposed public trials of the highest-level al-Qaeda suspects, which he thought would be similar to the Nuremberg trials, and would reveal the scope of the al-Qaeda conspiracy. He was ignored, and a team of lawyers he had assembled to gather evidence against these suspects was disbanded.


Instead, in November 2001, President Bush issued an executive order that set up military commissions under special administration rules. These proceedings, which could be closed at the judge's discretion, could admit any evidence that the judge thought had a "probative value to a reasonable person," which meant that hearsay and evidence gained through torture might be admitted. Only a two-thirds vote was required to convict; and there was no right of appeal to a civilian court.


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"Whatever the outcome of the election, the issue is not going to go away. There are still hundreds of prisoners held without charge at Guantánamo, and it will in all likelihood be left to the new administration to deal with them. Until it does so, the United States will maintain its reputation as a country that has flouted the basic principles of justice and set a deplorable example for the world."


Last year, Bonner, who still writes for the paper, benignly termed Australian David Hicks, an Al Qaeda trainee, "A young man in search of a war and a cause."