The Justice Department told a federal court Friday that it shouldn’t consider legal challenges filed by prisoners being held in Afghanistan by the U.S. military — another example of the Obama administration hewing to one of President Bush’s war-on-terror stances.
Click to view image: 'a734779ddab6-20090206.jpg'In a short legal filing, Justice Department lawyers said they planned to maintain the Bush administration’s claim that the roughly 600 prisoners held in Afghaninstan have no right to contest their detention in the courts. “The Government adheres to its previously articulated position,” the attorneys said.
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled that war-on-terror prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have the right to file court petitions because the U.S. has “de facto sovereignty” over the base, located on land leased from Cuba.
However, the Justice Department has argued that prisoners in Afghanistan, held at the Bagram Airbase outside Kabul, lack recourse to the courts because the U.S. does not have similar control over that region.
“Bagram is in a theater of war where the United States is engaged in active hostilities,” so extending those legal rights to the prisoners would be “impracticable,” Justice Department lawyers argued in a brief filed last November. They also argued that the habeas petitions are barred by the Military Commissions Act of 2006, a law Obama vocally opposed.
The opportunity the Obama administration passed up today was created by Judge John Bates on January 22, when he issued an order noting the change in administration and offering the government a chance to “refine” its position in the Afghanistan-related cases.
Obama has vowed to close the more widely known American detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. He also ordered a case by case review of the 245 detainees held there. No similar review was ordered for prisoners held in Afghanistan or Iraq.
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