In “Who is Keith Ellison? (22)” I noted the adoption by Minnesota Fifth District Rep. Keith Ellison of the cause of Guantanamo detainee Sami al-Haj. Al-Haj is described as a Sudanese cameraman for Al Jazeera who was captured in 2002 as he tried to enter Afghanistan to cover the war. Ellison assert that al-Haj has been “detained for taking pictures” and implied that he has been denied a hearing to determine whether his detention was justified. “If he’s a bad actor, prove it. If not, let him out,” Ellison said.
An Internet columnist who achieved notoriety as a sock puppet criticizes my post on Ellison in a Salon column:
Clearly, we’re at the point where a belief in due process, press freedoms and basic restraints on government and military power demonstrate a hatred for America and its freedoms. A belief in those principles constitutes “siding with the enemy.” Only by joyously affirming the power of the Government to detain people for life with no charges, to break laws enacted by Congress, to spy on Americans with no warrants, to torture detainees, and to arrest war journalists and hold them for years can one prove one’s loyalty to the country. A belief in due process now provokes this ominous question: “Who is Keith Ellison, and whom does he represent?”
Ellison to the contrary notwithstnding, al-Haj has appeared before a Combatant Status Review Tribunal and been adjudicated an enemy combatant. Since he was found to be an enemy combatant by the Combatant Status Review Panel, al-Haj has received annual hearings before administrative review tribunals that have found his continuing detention to be justified. The proposition peddled by Ellison that al-Haj has been denied some process that he is due is, bluntly speaking, a lie.
JOHN adds: Ellison’s seemingly casual phrase, “bad actor,” seems to have been carefully chosen. It plays on a misunderstanding that many Americans have about Guantanamo detainees. They have not been arrested as criminals, and there is no need to prove that they have committed crimes. In that sense, their status is not a question of “innocence” or “guilt.” They have not been arrested, they have been detained as enemy combatants. There is therefore no need to show that they are “bad actors,” if that phrase means anything other than having been captured while aiding or fighting with the Taliban, while the Taliban was engaged in military operations against our troops.
To comment on this post, go here.