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Scalia Cites False Information in Habeas Dissent


To bolster his argument that the Guantánamo detainees should be denied the right to prove their innocence in federal courts, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his dissent in Boumediene v. Bush: “At least 30 of those prisoners hitherto released from Guantánamo have returned to the battlefield.” It turns out that statement is false.

According to a new report by Seton Hall Law Center for Policy and Research, “The statistic was endorsed by a Senate Minority Report issued June 26, 2007, which cites a media outlet, CNN. CNN, in turn, named the DoD as its source. The ’30’ number, however, was corrected in a DoD press release issued in July 2007, and a DoD document submitted to the House Foreign Relations Committee on May 20, 2008 abandons the claim entirely.”

The largest possible number of detainees who could have “returned to the fight” is 12; however, the Department of Defense has no system for tracking the whereabouts of released detainees. The only one who has undisputedly taken up arms against the United States or its allies, “ISN 220,” was released by political officers of the DoD against the recommendations of military officers.

Scalia bolstered his hysterical claim that the Boumediene decision “will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed” with stale information that was proven to be false one year ago. Professor Mark Denbeaux, director of the Seton Hall Center, said, Scalia “was relying uncritically on information that originated with a party in the case before him.”

The Supreme Court decided in a 5-4 decision that the Guantánamo detainees were entitled to file petitions for writ of habeas corpus to challenge their detention. More than 200 men who have been held for up to six years and have never been charged with a crime, will now have their day in court. Many were snatched from their homes, picked up off the street or in airports, or sold to the U.S. military by warlords for bounty.

Scalia, who sits on the highest court in the land, has acted as a loyal foot soldier for the executive branch of government.

MARJORIE COHN is president of the National Lawyers Guild and a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. She is author of Cowboy Republic. Her articles are archived at







Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild. She writes, speaks and does media about human rights and U.S. foreign policy. Her most recent book is “Drones and Targeted Killing: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues.” Visit her website at and follow her on Twitter at @marjoriecohn.

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