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Homeland Security

Analysis: Bush Bows to High Court Ruling on 'Detainees'

Council on Foreign Relations

September 6, 2006
Prepared by: Lionel Beehner

The treatment of terrorism suspects, once in custody, has garnered plenty of attention in the five years since September 11, 2001 . Charges of torture, extralegal use of military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay , and the practice of extraordinary renditions have all provided fodder for critics of the White House’s handling of the war on terror. The latest revelation by President Bush—that at least fourteen top terrorism suspects were held in secret CIA-run prisons, so-called “black sites” located in eastern Europe—falls on the same day the Pentagon announced new revisions to the Army manual on the treatment of detainees (AP).

President Bush said the terrorism suspects, among them Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged plotter of the 9/11 attacks, have provided valuable intelligence and are being held "so they cannot murder our people" (BBC). Until this point, the Bush administration has treated terrorist detainees as "enemy combatants" undeserving of POW legal protections because of the fuzzy nature of the "war on terror" and the fact that the enemy does not abide by the rules of war (i.e. they target civilians, wear no insignia, etc.). Now, the suspects will be transferred to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay , where Bush acknowledged they will be afforded prisoner-of-war (POW) rights under Common Article Three of the Geneva Conventions. These include freedom from torture, right to due process, and access to medical care (al-Jazeera). The presence of the CIA prisons on European soil has been a source of tension between Brussels and Washington , as this Backgrounder explains.

The president will also propose new legislation to Congress this week that would create military tribunals to try terrorist suspects.

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Copyright 2006 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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