Peter Finn and Del Quentin Wilber, Washington Post
Guantanamo detainees have lost a series of court battles over the past 18 months as appellate judges in Washington have repeatedly sided with government lawyers and against suspected militants seeking to win their freedom.The U.S. Court of Appeals has not affirmed a single decision ordering the release of a detainee, nor has it reversed any decision that favored government lawyers. The Justice Department even won a case this month in which it had little expectation of victory.
A 2008 Supreme Court ruling allowing those held at Guantanamo Bay to challenge their detention was followed by an initial round of district court rulings that ordered the release of dozens of suspected militants after the government’s evidence was found wanting.
But the more-recent appeals court decisions, which have drawn little attention, have scuttled that trend as circuit judges have displayed more skepticism about the stories of detainees. That has meant an easing of pressure on the Obama administration to resettle or repatriate the men.“I doubt any of my colleagues will vote to grant a petition if he or she believes that it is somewhat likely that the petitioner is an al-Qaeda adherent or an active supporter,” Judge Laurence H. Silberman, of the U.S. Court of Appeals, wrote in April.
The appeals court has not only reversed judgments against the government but also compelled the lower courts to assess evidence in a manner that is much more sympathetic to government arguments. In one ruling, the appellate judges said that lower courts should consider that “two unreliable pieces of information may corroborate each other.”
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