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Backward at Bagram

By New York Times, New York Times - June 1, 2010

One of the most vital jobs of the federal courts is to check excessive claims of presidential power. The courts have stepped up to the task at important times since President George W. Bush embarked on a campaign after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to create an imperial presidency. Sadly, a recent ruling by a federal appeals court on the American military prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan was not one of those times.

What makes the ruling especially distressing is that the extravagant claim of executive power upheld by the court — to create a law-free zone at the Bagram lockup — was dreamed up by Mr. Bush and subsequently embraced by President Obama. The appellate court ruled that there was no right to federal court review for the detainees, who say they were captured outside of Afghanistan, far from any battlefield, and then shipped to Bagram to be held indefinitely in harsh conditions.

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