Thursday, September 23, 2004


Yaser Hamdi, a US citizen classified as an "enemy combatant" and held without charge after being captured in Afghanistan, is to be set free - on the condition that he relinquishes his US citizenship and accepts deportation to Saudi Arabia.

This is simply monstrous. Hamdi is as American as President Bush - he was born in Baton Rouge, Lousiana. He has not been convicted of any crime. He has not even been charged. Yet the government, having arbitrarily detained him for two years, is coercing him into giving up his citizenship by the threat of further arbitrary detention. That's not even a pretence of justice - it's extortion, pure and simple.

This is precisely why we have limits on government action - why we have courts, lawyers, appeals, and public oversight. But the Bush administration has managed to evade or neuter all those limits, and is now exiling one of its own.

America's status as a "beacon of freedom", already flickering, has just grown a little bit dimmer.