Q&A: Gitmo Lawyer Shayana Kadidal on SCOTUS Ruling

Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney of the Guantánamo project at the Center for Constitutional Rights, isn’t afraid to voice his opinion on the latest SCOTUS ruling in favor of Guantanamo detainees.

Below, excerpts from his conversation with MoJo reporter Stephanie Mencimer:

Mother Jones: Just as a refresher, since it seems as though the administration’s rationale is constantly shifting, why exactly does the Bush administration want so desperately to keep the detainee cases out of federal civilian courts?

Shayana Kadidal: The whole point of creating Guantanamo was to create a black hole to avoid oversight by the courts. They can’t justify the detention of these guys in federal court.

It’s fundamentally an interrogation camp, not a detention camp. They never intended to prosecute and punish them.

MJ: By failing to afford the detainees basic due process rights, not to mention using torture, the Bush administration has succeeded in the extraordinary feat of making Americans feel sorry for the people held at Guantanamo, even though the detainees are supposedly extremely dangerous terrorists out to destroy us. Do you think that the five Supreme Court justices who voted for the detainees were also swayed by the stories about the detainees going crazy after six years in solitary confinement and other allegations of abusive treatment?

SK: The innocence narratives have finally started to catch on. The court finally started to realize that there are scores of innocent people being held there. The notion that there are innocent people down there who have not had a day in court really radiates off the page of the opinion of the majority.

MJ: But Justice Scalia writes at one point that the majority opinion will “almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed.” Is there any reason to believe that he’s right?

SK:The assertion that the criminal justice system isn’t set up to handle these cases is nonsense. We have successfully tried in U.S. District Courts the 1993 World Trade Center bombers, the Cole bombers, and the Kenya embassy bombings. There are a million ways of dealing with this problem.

MJ: How soon could the detainees be released?

SK: For most of these guys, we often joke, the day the government has to come to defend the evidence against them is the day after they will get released.

[Note: For a backgrounder on all things Guantanamo, read The Torture Index.


The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.