Sunday, January 14, 2007

What? Transparency?


gitmo-prisoners01
Originally uploaded by R/C Kites.
So, you want a little transparency, eh?

My former school mate, and now deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, Cully Stimson, announced to the world last week that the detainee facility at Guantanamo is one of the most transparent places on the planet.

Er, what was that?

Just because more than two thousand journalists representing 500 media outlets have made the trek to Gitmo doesn't mean it's actually transparent. It just means we know it's there. Which, of course, is more than we could say before, and is still more than we can say about the CIA detention facilities the administration is not really wiling to admit to.

Sorry; once again, I digress.

Here is my question: if Gitmo truly were transparent, what would that look like?

I have a few ideas, which I'll share in a moment, but first, how would we accomplish this? Here's my suggestion: Assuming that Mr. Stimson doesn't get canned on Tuesday morning, after enjoying a long weekend with his family, the deputy assistant secretary announces that he will commission a panel of "transparency experts" to make recommendations on how to actually make Gitmo transparent while safeguarding information which is truly best kept secret. This bi-partisan committee, made up of experts from a spectrum of backgrounds who really know what transparency is (beyond being able to spell it or use it in a sentence) would have two months to meet and prepare their recommendations, which the deputy assistant secretary would then work to implement. On the committee, I'd recommend we see someone from the International Red Cross, someone from Amnesty International, a past Secretary of State, perhaps a former President, a senior fellow from Transparency International, a couple of academics (say someone from one of the war colleges and someone from Harvard or Stanford or the like), someone from the American Bar Association, a senior federal judge or retired judge, and a one or two other people who really know transparency. And, I'd say Admiral Thad Allen, too, since he seems to know about transparency in a government setting; although, yes, he does have a few other responsibilities running at the moment. Lock them in a room together and let them figure out what transparency at Gitmo ought to really look like. And then do it.

What would transparency look like if I were in charge? Here are a few ideas that I thought up over lunch. Several of them are suggestions from my son Elliot (he's just nearly three; please forgive him):
  • A full accounting & list of all detainees, which would include, at a minimum, their names, birthdays, citizenship, information on the dates/places/circumstances of detention/capture.
  • Onsite, permanent, oversight by representatives of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, to include access to the detainees.
  • Access to reporters by the detainees; conversations between reporters and detainees would be monitored by the government (Yeh, I know... but I'm will to give 'em this one.
  • Live webcam of common access areas of the camp.
  • Release of all transcripts of judicial and military law proceedings held at Gitmo, and elsewhere.
  • International oversight, perhaps by the UN or the IRC, of the care and feeding of detainees.
  • All detainees be granted full access to their attorneys, both military and civilian attorneys.
  • Oversight provided by the Judicial Branch of the Federal Government.
And, yes, although it's not in the realm of transparency, I'd like to see the right to habeas corpus returned to the detainees.

Another couple of questions to you, the reader:

1. Do you know of any of these transparency efforts currently being made?

2. What would you do?

3. What do you think the administration's next step is?

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