With the U.S. Supreme Court set to take up Guantánamo detention policy again, the justices have received some unusual advice from a far-flung, friendly corner of the war-torn Middle East.
Israeli lawyers and military law experts filed a brief supporting Guantánamo detainees suing the Bush administration over one of its most controversial war-on-terrorism policies. They argue that the United States can safeguard national security while giving presumed dangerous captives access to U.S. courts.
Says Haifa Law Professor Emanuel Gross, a retired Israeli Army colonel and military judge who contributed to the brief: ``The issue here is, having been engulfed with terrorist activities from the beginning, from 1948, we learned a good lesson -- if you want to remain a democracy you must be willing to let them have their day in court.''
The Israelis' brief was among 19 amicus curiae petitions in the case of Boumediene v. Bush -- which will become the third Guantánamo case in four years to go before the Supreme Court.
In a stunning reversal in June, the justices agreed to hear a challenge to the indefinite-detention policy designed by the Bush administration and adopted by Congress. Detainees won their two earlier cases.
Nearly two dozen widely diverse interest groups have filed briefs siding with the prisoners -- former senior U.S. diplomats and military officers, Canadian and European lawmakers and lawyers, the federal public defender in South Florida, even Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
They don't argue that the men are innocent but that they deserve their day in court.
The deadline to submit briefs was Aug. 24. Now the Bush administration and its supporters have until Oct. 9 to provide their briefs. Arguments are set for December.
The briefs are being written at a time of increasing discussion at the White House and in Congress about what to do with the detention and interrogation center at Guantánamo.
Also, this will be the first Guantánamo case before the U.S. Supreme Court since the resignations of two of the biggest champions of Bush administration detainee policy. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has been replaced by Robert Gates, who has advocated closing the prison camps.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales leaves Monday. He helped the administration sweep aside provisions of the Geneva Conventions at Guantánamo, declaring some of them ''quaint'' in a memo that critics argue enabled abusive practices.
The case is named for Lakhdar Boumediene, a 41-year-old Algerian former relief worker in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, who had worked for the Islamic counterpart of the Red Cross, the Red Crescent.
A father of two, Boumediene has been held at the U.S. military prison camps in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, since January 2002 -- and been on a prison camps hunger strike since Christmas.
In this case, U.S. forces spirited Boumediene and five other men from Europe to Turkey to Guantánamo for interrogation -- after Bosnian police cleared them of plotting to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo.
None has been charged with a crime.
All six men want to sue the U.S. administration for their freedom -- but a federal judge in Washington, D.C., threw out their cases, saying that as Guantánamo captives they were not entitled to file so-called habeas corpus petitions.