The Blog

Supreme Court Will Hear al Qaeda-Trained Terrorists' Plea

2:15 PM, Oct 20, 2009 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a plea from Uighurs detained at Guantanamo who are challenging their detention and seeking the right to be released in the U.S. The chain of legal events is as follows.

Last year, a federal appeals court determined that 17 Uighurs were not properly detained at Gitmo. Subsequently, another federal court ruled that they should be freed inside the U.S. The latter ruling was overturned on appeal, meaning the Obama administration had to find another home for them this year, as it has tried to empty Gitmo's cells. Four former Uighur detainees have since been released in Bermuda. But the attorneys for the remaining 13 Uighurs want the Supreme Court to hear their case. They are arguing that the appellate court's decision to overturn the order freeing the Uighurs into the U.S. was wrong. They want their clients to have the right to enjoy freedom on American soil.

The Supreme Court will now determine if the courts have the power to free terrorists and terrorist suspects in the U.S.

There are a lot of reasons to be skeptical about the Supreme Court's ability to get it right here. The principal problem is that this was all set off by a highly flawed ruling by the federal appeals court in Parhat v. Gates.

In determining that Huzaifa Parhat and his comrades were wrongly detained, the court demonstrated not only a fundamental ignorance of Parhat's particular case, but also his organization http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2008/10/evaluating_the_uighu.php target=_blank>as a whole.

Parhat was admittedly trained by a high-ranking al Qaeda terrorist named Abdul Haq. Despite the fact that Parhat and the other Uighur detainees denied any affiliation with al Qaeda, or animosity toward the United States, at least 8 of the 17 who were detained at Gitmo at the beginning of this year admitted that Haq was the head of their group. Haq's organization is the Turkistan Islamic Party (aka Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement), which has been designated by both the UN and the United States as an al Qaeda affiliate. The Obama administration subsequently designated Haq as a senior al Qaeda member who sits on al Qaeda's elite Shura (or consultation) council. Abdul Haq himself has made his allegiances clear.

Despite all of this and more, much of which was known prior to the federal court's ruling in Parhat v. Gates, the court did not discuss the detainees' ties to Abdul Haq. There was no discussion of Haq's al Qaeda ties, or the fact the Uighur detainees were admittedly trained by him and his minions. This training took place at Tora Bora -- a known pre-9/11 stronghold for al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Yet, the Parhat decision is ultimately what set off the chain of events leading to the Supreme Court's hearing the Uighurs' case. As a result, al Qaeda-trained terrorists not only have standing to bring suits in American courts, they can also have the most powerful court in this land hear their plea to be freed in the United States.

This is the September 10 mindset -- only worse. Federal courts with no particular knowledge of or expertise in understanding al Qaeda are determining how America's warriors can fight back. What makes this particularly troubling is that President Obama has cited the courts' habeas decisions, including the specious Parhat ruling, as a prime reason that Gitmo detainees need to be released or transferred.

We can only hope that the Supreme Court will do a better job than the lower courts have done thus far.