Under rules drawn up in hasty response to a 2004 Supreme Court ruling, the Pentagon gave the Guantanamo detainees one chance to prove that they were not—as the U.S. government had vigorously asserted for the past two years—“the worst of the worst.” Between July 2004 and January 2005, the military held hundreds of combatant status review tribunals, one-time hearings in which detainees went before a panel of three unidentified American officers who reviewed the government’s reasons for holding them as enemy combatants. Detainees couldrespond directly to the accusations made against them and were assigned to an officer who shepherded them through the process. However, they did not have access to lawyers and often could not fully examine the government’s claims, particularly if those claims were based on classified information. Of the 558 detainees who faced tribunals, 38 were declared “No Longer Enemy Combatants.” (Thirty-five have since been released.) Asked about the process, then-Secretary of the Navy Gordon England said, “Obviously, it’s not perfect.” In June, the Supreme Court agreed, ruling that the tribunals had violated federal law and the Geneva Conventions. Soon afterwards, the Pentagon announced it would begin to follow the conventions’ protections for detainees. These excerpts were taken from the thousands of pages of tribunal transcripts released this spring under the Freedom of Information Act.
On April 18, 1983, someone drove a van packed with explosives into the United States embassy in Beirut, demolishing it and killing 63 people. Six months later, 241 Marines and soldiers were killed when their Beirut barracks were torn apart by a truck carrying 12,000 pounds of dynamite, which detonated the largest nonnuclear explosion since World War II.
The twin suicide bombings shocked and intrigued Robert Baer, who at the time was stationed in Lebanon as a Central Intelligence Agency officer and knew several agency employees who had died in the embassy. He became preoccupied with who had plotted the attacks and what had motivated the bombers who’d carried them out. But he put his curiosity on hold as he continued his career, going on to earn a reputation as “perhaps the best on-the-ground field officer in the Middle East,” as Seymour M. Hersh put it. In 1997, he quit the CIA and wrote See No Evil, a scathing insider’s account of its counterterrorism efforts. The book inspired the 2005 film Syriana and its main character, a rumpled and idealistic undercover agent played by George Clooney.
"I am a glutton for tranquility," says Wole Soyinka. The 72-year-old Nigerian writer claims he would like nothing more than to retreat to his childhood home and spend his days in seclusion. But peace and quiet have long eluded Soyinka, who spent decades in the thick of the fight to restore democracy to Nigeria, eventually going into exile in 1994 during the reign of General Sani Abacha. In his new memoir, You Must Set Forth at Dawn, he recounts the paradox of being both a private artist and a compulsive activist, a split that is embodied in the Yoruba god Ogun, whom Soyinka invokes as his protective deity. "He could be such a peaceful person," he explains, "yet he could go to war at a pinch."
For Peter Singer, the unexamined meal is not worth eating. Over the past three decades, the Australian philosopher has challenged the idea that eating is simply a matter of convenience or enjoyment, making a case that it is a profound ethical choice—particularly if you’re a meat eater. In 1975 he published Animal Liberation, a pioneering defense of the rights of animals that concluded that veganism is the most ethically justifiable diet. The book established Singer as the intellectual godfather of the animal rights movement and, as an Oxford philosophy lecturer put it, took what had been viewed as “the concern of eccentrics and little old ladies with too many cats” and transformed it into a “respectable moral cause.”
Over the years, Mississippi senator Trent Lott made a name for himself as an opponent of lawsuit abuse, decrying his home state as the center of jackpot justice and declaring, What disgusts me most is the lawyers that the abuse has made super-wealthy. That was then. After Hurricane Katrina ruined his Gulf Coast home, Lott changed his tune, joining thousands of Mississippians in a class-action lawsuit against their insurance companies. The suit is headed by legendary plaintiffs lawyer Richard Scruggs, who observed, Funny how frivolous lawsuits stop being frivolous when its you.