WASHINGTON — In a dramatic setback for the Bush administration, a federal judge ordered the U.S. government Tuesday to immediately transfer to the U.S. and release 17 Chinese-born Muslims detained for seven years at Guantanamo.
Reading his decision from the bench, Judge Ricardo Urbina declared the continued detention of the group from the ethnic Uighur minority to be “unlawful” and ordered the government to transfer the detainees to the U.S. by Friday.
The decision marked the first time a court has ordered the release of Guantanamo detainees into the U.S.
First, this raises a major issue as to what is going to happen to these detainees when they get transferred to the United States. They have two options: Return them to their native China, OR find a third country willing to grant them asylum. Based on the predicament facing the last group of Uighurs released from Guantanamo, I have a feeling that this group will be dealt with the same way.
Second, this is another legal defeat for the administration. After reading several books about the Bush Administration, specifically Barton Gellman’s Angler and Charlie Savage’s Takeover, one common theme keeps popping up: the expansion of executive power at the expense of the other branches of American government.
After two Supreme Court cases and now this decision, the administration is finally learning the costs of overreach. These precedents are now on the books and effectively bind future administrations to abide by them in the future.