WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court reviewing evidence at Guantanamo Bay compared a Bush administration legal argument to one made by a hapless, dimwitted character in a 19th century nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit cited the 1876 poem, “The Hunting of the Snark,” in ruling that the military improperly labeled a Chinese Muslim as an enemy combatant. The ruling was issued last week but an unclassified version of the opinion was released only Monday.
It was the first time a court has reviewed the military’s decision-making and considered whether a detainee should be held.
The court said military review panels were unable to assess much of the evidence against the detainee, Huzaifa Parhat, and at times treated accusations as evidence.
Parhat is one of a group of Chinese Muslims, known as Uighurs, being held at Guantanamo Bay. Their case has become a diplomatic and legal headache for the U.S., which has tried to find a country willing to accept the Uighurs (pronounced WEE’-gurs) even as it defended its decision to hold them as enemy combatants.
The Justice Department concedes that Parhat never fought against the U.S. and says it has no evidence he was planning to do so. The case hinges on Parhat’s connection to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a militant group that demands separation from China. Parhat says he considers China, not the United States, the enemy.
The Justice Department says the U.S. has classified intelligence that ETIM is affiliated with al-Qaida, though officials did not identify the source of that intelligence either to the judges or to the military reviewers. The judges said there’s credible evidence the source of that intelligence is the Chinese government, “which may be less than objective with respect to the Uighurs.”
The three-member court, which was made up of two Republican judges and one Democrat, was particularly pointed in its criticism of the logic that evidence is reliable because it appears on multiple documents.