Carly Gordenstein (C’20, G’21) for the Berkeley Forum: “The Efficacy of the Guantánamo Military Commissions”

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Guantánamo Bay, and the actions that took place there, must serve as a reminder to our nation that intelligence gathering must be done within the confines of the law.

Gordenstein writes: “There are a few cases currently being tried at Camp Justice in Guantánamo Bay, the most notable being the case of United States v. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, et al., which charges five defendants in their connection to the September 11 attacks. This case came as a result of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and charges the defendants as “unlawful enemy combatants.” This classification precludes the men from the rights afforded to citizens in the U.S. legal system or “prisoners of war” in the international legal system. These men were taken into CIA custody during the Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation (RDI) program that began in 2003. The RDI program involved the notorious enhanced interrogation techniques (EIT), often described by human rights critics and the general public as torture. The judge in this case, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court, has avoided making an official ruling on this distinction, making it impossible to legally qualify the difference at this time. I contend that in accordance with international and domestic legal and ethical standards, the program was undoubtedly torture.

Critics of Guantánamo often describe it as an illegal show trial, citing the horrific torture these men have endured throughout their indefinite incarceration as reason for the case to be dismissed. Facets of American public discourse criticize the government’s actions at Guantánamo, causing increased pressure for the closure of the prison and federally issued apologies. However, a plausible alternative to the trial might not exist. Could the United States, conceivably, admit to the egregiousness of its wrongdoings and promise for more fair actions in the future while also allowing these men to return to their home countries? This seems unlikely. For the sake of clarity, I do not necessarily condone the reality of this trial; rather, I believe there is not a more suitable option. …”