What If A Court Gave An Important Ruling, But We Were Not Allowed To Know What It Was?

from the sign-of-the-times dept

That Anonymous Coward alerts us to the news that DC federal appeals court has issued a ruling (pdf) in the case of Gitmo detainee Adnan Farhan Abd Al Latif, but the entire ruling is classified, so the public has no idea what it says.

A ruling last year at the district court had ordered the administration to release Latif for lack of evidence that he had anything to do with Al Qaeda. And now… we have no idea what the government is ordered to do or not do. So what do we do in a time when the federal government gets to come up with secret interpretations of law and then can have court rulings on related issues entirely hidden from the public?

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Comments on “What If A Court Gave An Important Ruling, But We Were Not Allowed To Know What It Was?”

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Dark Helmet (profile) says:


“So what do we do in a time when the federal government gets to come up with secret interpretations of law and then can have court rulings on related issues entirely hidden from the public?”

We begin seriously considering scrapping it all and starting over, like our own founding document instructs us to do. I swear to god, this country’s patriots are the most un-patriotic people in America….

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

More intriguing to me is this is someone who is mentally ill who had gone to Afghanistan seeking treatment and then got swept up.

I wonder how much of him still being detained, over 9 years later, is because none of our leaders lack the balls to see justice done. That they are to worried about Faux News painting them as weak on terrorism because they let this man go free. This man who made the mistake of looking for medical care, is not a terrorist, but he fit a profile so he must be a terrorist. Are we really back to the idea if they float they must be a witch?

What is the value of one mans life when there is an election cycle to protect?

And while you ponder the fate of this unfortunate soul, consider what a few more years of solitary are going to do to Bradley Manning. No one mentions him anymore, is he just going to be detained forever and hidden away behind rulings the public can not see?

Secrets are toxic to Democracy, and we are well on our way to being a SuperFund site.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“More intriguing to me is this is someone who is mentally ill who had gone to Afghanistan seeking treatment and then got swept up.”

I think it more intriguing that someone who was mentally ill thought Afghanistan was a good choice to get treatment. Perhaps it proves that they are in fact mentally ill.

Secrets aren’t toxic to democracy, people who can’t leave well enough alone are.

Some Other AC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Secrets aren’t toxic to democracy, people who can’t leave well enough alone are.”

Democracy and our particular flavor of it was based on openness of decision and rule. Unfortunately, our “government” at all Federal levels has become so biased by financial and political viewpoints that they are now unable/unwilling to disclose any information that would cast a negative shadow on their “well meaning” decisions. Honestly, we the people vote for city, state and federal representatives. They in turn, get to vote for other versions of representation(Federal Judges/various committees). However, you will notice over the last double handful of elections, the options we are given to vote for are usually the ones the media has jumped behind and have the largest financial backing. Doesn’t matter their true platform. Until we, as a country and voting population, get well and truly educated on the specifics and valid backgrounds of each potential candidate and take the power out of the media and financial behemoths, we will continue down the same path. The insane part is, we keep expecting different results.

BearGriz72 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

How about something like THIS

"Moments after he is confirmed by Congress, while waiting in a tunnel beneath the building to come up after the vote, a Japanese airline pilot deliberately crashes his 747 into the Capitol during the joint session of Congress, killing most of the people inside, decapitating the U.S. government and elevating Ryan to the Presidency."

NOTE: I do not & will not advocate murder on any level.

However the idea of completely cleaning out the current government (with the possibility of a few exceptions), and starting over with people that don’t really want the job but are willing to do it because it needs to be done and done right, well that is a powerfully tempting notion.

Jeff (profile) says:

Re: Re:

^^^^ THIS ^^^^^

Unfortunately I can’t vote it insightful again and again. As a 20 year military retiree, I can’t agree more. This country is completely lost to our corporate masters. The real question to ask is: “what is the value of one mans life when I can get a shit-load of money from my cropophilia loving corporate masters…”

Sad day… sad day’s indeed. If I wasn’t an old man, I’d be on the front lines, because we’ve lost our way…

DCX2 says:

Re: Re:

I’ve been thinking about Bradley Manning lately. And you know what?

I think Obama needs a primary challenger. Even if Obama is going to win, he needs to see the vote of no confidence that most Democrats have with his track record.

What better way than to choose a “traitor” to run against him in the Primary? Since Manning hasn’t been charged with a crime or convicted, he can still run for POTUS, right?

Anonymous says “Free Bradley Manning”. I say “Bradley Manning for President!”

PlagueSD says:

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

I think it’s time to “separate” again…

weneedhelp (profile) says:

So what do we do in a time when the federal government gets to come up with secret interpretations of law and then can have court rulings on related issues entirely hidden from the public?

Overthrow the corrupt government. Period.

“We, the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts not to overthrow the Constitution, but to overthrow men who pervert the Constitution.”

Abraham Lincoln

“The right of citizens to bear arms is just one guarantee against arbitrary government, one more safeguard against the tyranny which now appears remote in America, but which historically has proved to be always possible.”

Senator Hubert H. Humprey (D-Minnesota)

“Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any bands of regular
troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States.”
Noah Webster

Uh oh Lucy, we have one of dem dare home grown terrists afoot. Oh noooooos.

PlagueSD says:

Re: Re:

Just to add on to that with 2 more Noah Webster quotes…from 1832.

“If the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made not for the public good so much as for the selfish or local purposes.” Noah Webster

“Corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizens will be violated or disregarded.” Noah Webster

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s things like this that make the federal government look more and more like a dictatorship as time goes on.

I mean seriously, the Supreme Court has ruled that it’s perfectly ok for the government to keep you locked up in jail indefinitely even after you’ve served all the time you were sentenced to if you’re deemed a ‘threat’ to society should you be released. Now combine that with secret laws and secret interpretations of the law, and now even secret court rulings on secret laws, and how are we supposed to know the government isn’t just throwing anybody they dislike in jail just to look like they’re doing something?

There’s a reason why our founding fathers defined treason in the constitution, it’s a favorite tool of dictators to crush descent. It looks like today’s politicians have found a way around that pesky problem.

Charles (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I have been stewing inside for a long time about the erosion of our rights. Nobody seems to notice or care.

I get all my news from the internet, including techdirt- thanks Mike. The mainstream media have abandoned us. Much of society classifies you as a geek or a kook if you try to discuss these issues.

I don’t know when it will happen, but I am sure critical mass will be reached and the people will be heard. I hope I get to see it.

I don’t know where to start, but I know I need to get off my duff and do something. as do we all.

Thomas (profile) says:


ha. They don’t believe the detainees have any rights anyway. It’s only a matter of time before they simply start shooting them or maybe adopt the old “push them out of an airplane with no parachute” bit.

The government “detains” people under secret laws that no one knows about. This is clearly a sign that the government is corrupt beyond belief. Himmler and his cohorts would be proud of our government today.

Anonymous Coward says:

At this point, the US government’s collective mentality is that of a spoiled brat. It does whatever it wants, because it knows no matter what it does it won’t receive any sort of real punishment.

Simple protests are meaningless; the government believes itself unassailable. If the people vote Republican, they get another Dubya. If the people vote Democrat, they get another Obama. Both sides take funding from the same corporations, so both sides toe the same line, no matter how much they promise to change their ways.

Eventually, inevitably, widespread dissemination of facts illuminating corruption will trigger radical change. We can only hope that it takes the form of resignations and reform rather than armed uprisings and lynchings.

Anonymous Coward says:

When the president of the United States allowed a human being to be assassinated I didn’t care that much after all it was Osama Bin Laden who cares about that piece of shit right, not me, I would have done it too, and probably go to jail, there is a barrier there for me to pass and that solution I would use only in extreme cases because it is an extreme act and that would give me pause to really, really think about that, but the government don’t have that, they don’t have those limitations any more apparently everything goes and that can turn to shit quickly, they expanded the thing to assassinate an American citizen of course he was a piece of shit terrorist but a citizen nonetheless, and again no barriers, now what happens when the government decides they can kill anything that threatens them for national security reasons is this America going back to the dark days where the government experimented on their own people, assassinated anyone who disagreed with them?

There are no barriers the price is low right now and they got away with it, of course the people who they killed deserve it, but where are the mechanism that guarantee this will not be used more and more against Americans?

All this secrecy crap is scary.

Anonymous Coward says:

All about the precedent

For me, the key questions here are:
1) What legal basis is there for classifying the ruling?
2) How could the government expect to get away with this?
3) How could anyone think this is a good idea?

It’s (obviously) hard to prove, but I’m pretty sure the answer to #3 has to do with precedent. If, as I suspect, the court denied the appeal (and upheld the order to release Latif), this would serve as an incredibly important precedent for releasing any other detainees that are being held for no particularly good reason.

If the ruling had been in the administration’s favor, they’d really want to cite it in their dozens of other similar cases. If the ruling went against the administration, they’d really want to prevent the ruling from being cited. By classifying the judgement, they’re essentially removing the case from the entire body of US case law — any precedent that would have been set (including in the original case) will now be entirely ignored.

anon says:

Re: All about the precedent

about that “legal basis”…

the inmates are now running the asylum, and making things “legal” pretty much at a whim.Those who should be stewards, guardians, and defenders of our society are legislating honest, law-abiding citizens into being criminals while giving themselves carte blanche and setting the system so they cannot be held accountable for anything.

Be a law-abiding citizen doing what you do every day, go to bed that night, wake up the next morning to being a criminal for doing the same thing you did yesterday the next day…

EmmueI says:

Re: All about the precedent

I wonder if the administration is actually thinking this far ahead re: precedent. If they are, then that’s scary. I have a tendency to want to apply the Fulbright rule regarding classification here and in other gitmo cases: Whatever’s embarrassing to the govt gets classified. In Kennedy’s decision on Latif and habeas corpus, it sounded like the govts case was based on mistranslations and ratting (possibly the work of torture including the “speech impediments(?)”), and etc. And all that was to criminalize a man who was either too poor to pay for medical care in Yemen &/or there weren’t many treatment options for his type of head injury/& or schizophrenia, so he was advised to go to Pakistan. But he never got the treatment. Did the US military bother to give this poor man an MRI or catscan before they tortured and force-force fed him? I forgot how Latif was “apprehended” by our illustrious military/s and I should check, but I believe it was probably ye old payoffs in Pakistan which is common for many of the prisoners.

DannyB (profile) says:

Secret laws and court orders

Joe is dragged into court and charged with breaking the law.

Joe: What law?

Persecutor: Sorry, can’t tell you, it’s classified.

Joe: You can’t tell me what law I broke, but I am to be prosecuted for breaking it?

Persecutor: We could tell you what law you broke, but then we’d have to kill you.

Joe: Then I won’t answer the charges until I know what I am charged with.

Persecutor: The court has just now ordered you to do something, but the court order itself is classified. Failure to comply with the court order will result in sanctions, including the death penalty. We could tell you the contents of the court order, but then we’d have to kill you.

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