From The Raw Story:
In a brief filed Thursday evening, Obama Justice Department lawyers extended many of the same arguments made by Bush attorneys -- that top government officials have qualified immunity from prosecution and that Guantanamo detainees do not have constitutional rights to due process.
The Department of Justice has asserted that a Supreme Court ruling reaffirming the rights of Guantanamo detainees to habeas corpus does not apply to plaintiffs in a case against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld because the plaintiffs were released from prison four years prior to the Supreme Court's decision.
"It is fair to say that the current brief that is filed by the new administration supports a lot of the arguments that were made by the previous administration," said Kate Toomey, an attorney with Baach Robinson & Lewis who is representing the former detainees in an interview with RAW STORY. "They continue to assert that torture was in the scope of employment and could be reasonably expected. They continue to assert that these [top officials] be entitled to immunity. They also continue to argue that detainees at Guantanamo don't have constitutional rights."
The brief was filed as part of the Rasul v. Rumsfeld lawsuit of four former detainees, who include the "Tipton Three," and are seeking damages for their detention and reported torture at Guantanamo Bay against Rumsfeld, the Chairmen of the Joint Chief of Staffs and other top military officials. The suit charges them with violations of the Fifth and Eighth Amendments, the Alien Tort Statute, the Geneva Conventions and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The plaintiffs are individually each seeking $10 million in damages.
The men were held for more than two years at Guantanamo where they were reportedly subjected to regular beatings, death threats, sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures, forced nakedness, interrogations at gun point and religious and racial harassment. They were never charged with any crime. The men were released in March 2004 and returned to their home country of Britain.
This, at about two months in, is the paradox of the Obama administration: while moving to undo Bushco policies with regard to many regulatory issues, they continue to go to court with Bush-era legal arguments in defiance of basic Constitutional law.
Here's a summary of the questionable positions they've taken with regards to torture, human rights, or related issues:
_The administration has filed a legal brief that echoed Bush in maintaining that detainees in Afghanistan have no constitutional rights and arguing that enemy combatants held at Bagram Airfield cannot use U.S. courts to challenge their detention.
_Government lawyers continued to invoke the state secrets law in a federal court case that involves the CIA's extraordinary rendition program, in which U.S. operatives seized foreign suspects and handed them over to other countries for questioning. The law blocks the release of evidence the government deems secret and potentially harmful to U.S. security.
_The administration is feeling out Uzbekistan, which has one of the worst human rights records among the former Soviet republics, about using an air base to provide supplies and troops to Afghanistan. The move became necessary after neighboring Kyrgyzstan declared it was canceling the U.S. lease for a base in that Central Asian country.
_Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently greatly scaled back expectations in Afghanistan, declaring the United States was not going to be able to leave behind anything close to a western-style democracy. The U.S. rationale for its seven-year engagement in the country rested partly on having driven the Taliban from power. The Islamic fundamentalists ran a brutal regime that was particularly harsh in its treatment of women. The administration has recently said it was ready to reach out to Taliban members who are willing to work with the U.S.-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.
The Bagram stand, which effectively allows the administration to practice selective denial of human/constitutional rights to detainees, and the invocation of state secrets in the rendition cases are particularly troubling, but--viewed in its totality--the distance between President Obama's rhetoric and the reality of his Justice Department's positions is puzzling.