Two months ago, I was in an online argument about the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo. It turned out my disputant was one of the attorneys providing pro bono legal services to one of their number. He was irate about the abuses he had heard about from his client. Two days later, I mentioned the online discussion to an acquaintance of mine who is a hearings officer for Behavioral Health. He was quite testy about the whole subject, noting that because the detainees could not meet privately with attorneys, and in many cases had not had status hearings, that the Bush Administration was “pretty clearly depriving them” of rights. “That’s a severe deprivation of some basic due process.” He was also worried about physical abuse.
Perhaps he’s right, of course. I’m no expert on the Geneva Conventions. My understanding was that lawful combatants and noncombatants have some clearly designated rights, but that unlawful combatants were in no-man’s land legally. But there are obviously other sides to that story, and that’s what everyone’s arguing about.
I bring it up because of that hearings officer’s certainty about what process was due, and disdain that anyone could think otherwise. That certainty is, shall we say ironic in view of his conduct at yesterday’s hearing. Sparing the reader the details, it is necessary only that you know that the patient who had requested the appeal hearing is a small paranoid woman in her mid-forties who is quite bright and has a sharp tongue. This hearing had been continued at her request twice before because she felt it was not being handled properly. She had interrupted the hearing officer angrily on both previous occasions, complaining that he is not a “real judge” and that her rights were being violated and the hearing was illegal.
The hearings officer was defensive and grew snappish. Had one of the line staff on the unit used that tone he would have been subject to mild disciplinary action. The appellant was cut off when she would not accept the first explanation of why the hearing was indeed legal, and while some accommodation had been made for her, much more could have been done.
It is my clinical opinion that however much was done it would not have changed the appeal materially. The patient would have quickly found something new to object to whatever accommodations were made. But it is important to note that a) the hearing officer did treat her rudely, and b) not everything was done that could have been.
Walk a mile in my shoes, eh? The guards at Gitmo endure enormous provocation – beyond what we endure here at an involuntary psych hospital, and that is a high level – and perform at a level of self control that I find almost unimaginable (See again the interview over at Patterico). This particular critic of Gitmo could not endure even rudeness from a middle-aged psychiatric patient without losing his temper and abridging her rights.
He may be absolutely right on the points of law, but he is still a hypocritical, self-righteous bastard.