Sour Grapes
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Disappointment at Hamdi's release

Yaser Esam Hamdi was picked up Afghanistan during the fighting there in 2001 and sent to Guantánamo Bay. There officials learned he had been born in Louisiana and could therefore claim US citizenship. He was transferred to a brig in South Carolina and held incommunicado for two years. The Bush administration claimed he had no right to a lawyer or to go before a judge. Lawyers sued on his behalf and, thankfully, won.

Here's the latest chapter:

Now federal public defender Paul Dunham, who has been staunchly on the side of due process and constitutional rights throughout this process, has negotiated Hamdi's release.

The conditions are that Hamdi renounce his U.S. citizenship, is barred from ever returning to the United States and is prohibited from traveling to places afflicted by terror — Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Pakistan, Syria, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Dunham seemed pleased with the settlement — and presumably Hamdi is after all that time in solitary. But we wish Hamdi had stayed and exercised his hard-won right to challenge his confinement in court. All Americans, even one with such a sketchy claim as Hamdi, are protected by their Constitution, the whole point of which is that no government has the right to summarily take away those protections.

The administration clings to its rubric about the Guantánamo detainees that Hamdi is being released because he's no longer a danger to the United States and no longer has any useful intelligence.

The last is really scary because the administration is insisting that it has a right to throw a citizen in solitary because of what he may or may not know. As for being a danger to the United States, Hamdi had — or should have had — the right to stand up to the government and say: "Prove it."

I am sympathetic to the writer's point of view. However, if I held been held for two years overseas by an antagonistic Saudi Arabia and could win similar terms, I'd leap at them. I wish Hamdi had stayed and fought. But it would have been an unbelievably noble thing to do, for the primary beneficiaries would have been us, the citizens of the US.

I truly fear for this nation's future if Bush is re-elected on November 2. It would have been nice to have this Saudia Arabian stay and fight for some of our seemingly lost rights, but I guess it's going to be up to us voters, at least for the near term.

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