Style note to editorsproducersDescribing

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Style note to editors/producers:

Describing those held at Guantanamo as “detainees” or “enemy combatants” is not accurate.

The Supreme Court’s Hamdan decision declared them to be prisoners of war, entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions, until such time as a properly constituted tribunal concludes otherwise. The thrust of the Court’s decision was that the military commissions set up by the Administration did not include the basic procedural safeguards necessary to qualify as a properly constituted tribunal.

As a matter of law now, the United States is holding prisoners of war at Guantanamo Bay. That’s a fact, which is obscured when journalists continue to use language first put forth by the Administration specifically to avoid the strictures of the Geneva Conventions.

Update: Nothing like giving style instructions, and being incorrect. A number of readers have correctly pointed out that the Supreme Court in Hamdan did not reach the issue of whether Hamdan was a prisoner of war. So I overstated the case when I wrote that the Supreme Court had declared his POW status. Rather, the District Court had made that determination, and the judgment of the District Court was affirmed by the Supreme Court, but on different grounds. It simply did not decide the POW issue one way or the other. I think it’s fair to say that the District Court’s opinion that Hamdan is a prisoner of war remains good law, but that decision does not have the imprimatur of the Supreme Court, as my post stated. My apologies for the error and thanks to the readers who caught it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.
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