I haven’t had a chance to study yesterday’s decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit regarding detention proceedings for enemy combatants held at Guantanamo Bay. But it’s already clear that the New York Times account this morning, portraying the ruling as a major defeat for the Bush administration, is misleading.
There’s a dispute over what “the record” of a detention proceeding, called a Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT), is. The government took the position that it is only the information presented at the CSRT; the combatants claim it is all information the government has pertaining to the detainee, whether it is presented at the CSRT or not. The combatants won on that issue, but the three-judge panel appears to have been very careful about deferring to the executive branch regarding what information is deemed classified; and it makes provision for the government to disclose very sensitive information only to the court, not the combatant.
I was also suspicious of the Times report because, after you wade sixteen paragraphs into the story — paragraphs which have very little to do with the case decided yesterday but are obviously intended to convey the impression that the sky is falling on the Bush administration’s military tribunals — reporter William Glaberson drops this “oh, by the way” graph: “The ruling also included significant victories for the government, including a decision allowing the Pentagon to limit the subjects that the lawyers can discuss with detainees and authorizing special Pentagon teams to read the lawyers’ mail and remove unauthorized comments.”
All the spin that’s fit to print.