The case against Saeed Mohammed Saleh Hatim seemed ironclad.
The Justice Department alleged that Hatim, a detainee at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, trained at an al-Qaeda military camp in Afghanistan, stayed at terrorist guesthouses and even fought in the battle of Tora Bora. . . .
But a federal judge reviewed the case and found the government’s evidence too weak to justify Hatim’s confinement. The judge ordered the detainee’s release, ruling that he could not rely on Hatim’s statements because they had been coerced. He also found that the government’s informer was “profoundly unreliable.”
The case is more the rule than the exception. Federal judges, acting under a landmark 2008 Supreme Court ruling that grants Guantanamo Bay detainees the right to challenge their confinements, have ordered the government to free 32 prisoners and backed the detention of nine others. In their opinions, the judges have gutted allegations and questioned the reliability of statements by the prisoners during interrogations and by the informants. Even when ruling for the government, the judges have not always endorsed the Justice Department’s case. . . .
Legal scholars and outside experts who have studied the issue say the government is likely to suffer further losses because many cases appear to be built on the same kinds of evidence that have drawn such skepticism . . . .
In other words, if one hears only the Government’s unchallenged, untested accusations about detainees and others whom it labels Terrorists and Enemy Combatants, it semes clear and obvious that the person is an Evil, Dangerous and Bad Man. But when those accusations are actually subjected to scrutiny by courts, it turns out that — in the overwhelming majority of cases — there is virtually no reliable evidence to support them. Even beyond those cases, Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, had access to detainee files and revealed that a huge number of Guantanamo detainees — constantly accused of being the Worst of the Worst — were, in fact, completely innocent, as even the Bush administration came to acknowledge. It’s unsurprising that the Government would falsely accuse so many people: unlike in traditional (i.e., real) wars, where POWs are captured in uniform, as part of an army and on a battlefield, most of the people accused of being Terrorists and Enemy Combatants are captured far away from any battlefield: in their homes, walking on the street, at work, etc. The potential for both error and abuse (and thus the need for real safegurads) is radically greater.
[Read more at Salon]