Friday, February 20, 2009

No Constitutional Rights for Enemy Aliens

From CBS News:

President Barack Obama's Justice Department sided with the former Bush administration on Friday, saying detainees in Afghanistan have no constitutional rights.

The Obama administration maintains that Bagram prison is located in
an overseas war zone and the prisoners there are being held as part of a continuing military action.
No doubt the usual suspects will be outraged by this action. It doesn't look like Obama buys into their excessive concern for the imaginary rights of presumed enemy aliens. And those on the right who are already engaging in over-the-top criticism of Obama's foreign policy might want to tone it down a bit. This and other actions are positive signs that the Obama administration takes a more realistic attitude toward foreign policy and national security than many of us feared.


  1. When the laws of war apply, the laws of war apply. I don't think it outrageous for someone's rights to be governed by Geneva rather than the domestic laws of their captors (which could potentially be Afghan law if there's a transfer of responsibility)

    But what rights they do have will not be imaginary. You don't become a rightless monkey when you're captured and declared a "presumed enemy alien".

  2. "When the laws of war apply, the laws of war apply."

    The problem is that many of the people we capture are not easy to categorize. They don't fit into a neat box that prescribes how they are to be treated. Most are what used to be called "illegal combatants." This type of enemy was often executed on the spot after being captured. That was normal under the laws of war.

    We no longer use summary execution, but the laws of war have not been updated to effectively cover the types of wars we now find ourselves in.