At Detainee Hearing, Witness Puts Senator On the Stand

The Senate Judiciary Committee today held a hearing on whether detainees in U.S. custody should have the right to challenge the grounds of their imprisonment — also known as “habeas” rights.

One witness in particular, a not-so-young lawyer named Tom Sullivan, made the most of his minutes before the distinguished lawmakers, sharply questioning Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), who has been a staunch advocate of stripping those rights from suspected terrorists.

A partner in the white-shoe law firm of Jenner & Block, Sullivan has helped represent 10 Saudis held at Guantanamo Bay. Three have been released; seven are still confined to the military prison. He aimed his opening remarks squarely at Cornyn — rarely does one see testimony so directly confront a lawmaker:

Senator Cornyn, I’d like to address a few remarks you made.

You said these are enemies of the United States captured on the battlefield. None of the 10 we represent were captured on the battlefield or are enemies of the United States.

You said no one suggested that the enemy combatants were entitled to the habeas corpus. The Supreme Court of the United States in the Rasul case two years ago held specifically that they were entitled to habeas corpus, to challenge the reason for their detention.

You said they have an administrative review following a trial on the merits. None of them got a trial on the merits. . . .

More after the jump.Sullivan’s remarks, continued:

When they started out in these hearings, these [Combatant Status Review Tribunals], they were presumed guilty. There had already been a finding they were enemy combatants. The determination had been made. No witness or evidence was presented by the government. . . .

And then they put in some classified evidence. I’ve been down to the secure facility. It’s a joke. It’s a sham.

I’ve read the classified evidence. I’m not free to disclose it, but I can tell you it’s a sham.

There was no lawyer given to the defendants. They didn’t speak English, most of them. They were young men who had no training in law. There were no rules of evidence applicable. . . .

No cross-examination was allowed. There wasn’t any objection to physical evidence, because there wasn’t any produced.

Now, you call that due process, Your Honor? Do you?

This is a historic moment in our time. To suspend the writ of habeas corpus without hearings, rushing it through just before elections, where people are afraid to vote against this bill because somebody on the other side is going to hold up a TV commercial and criticize them for it, is phony.