In considering U.S. policy toward terrorists, I argue that the authorities face a whole new set of issues for which, however slowly and clumsily, they are developing a coherent set of regulations and guidelines.
Just how slow and clumsy that process comes vividly to light in an article by Richard A. Serrano in the Los Angeles Times. The lengthy title says it all – "Guantánamo Bay Prisoner Sues U.S. to Get a Bible: The government says certain books are withheld because they could ‘incite' inmates" – but the full details make compelling reading:
At the U.S. prison for suspected terrorists at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, everyone can get a Koran, but no one gets a Bible. Saifullah Paracha, a 58-year-old former Pakistani businessman with alleged ties to Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, has been in U.S. custody since 2003.
Like the other inmates at Guantánamo Bay, he has a copy of the Koran. But he also wants an English translation of the King James version of the Bible. Paracha believes that because the Bible is one of the scriptures accepted in Islam, he is entitled to a copy to read in his small wire-mesh cell. …
Paracha's Washington lawyer, Gaillard T. Hunt, said he met with Paracha in September  and learned that his client had "been in solitary confinement with very little communication with anyone for most of the last year. I learned that he has been requesting a Bible. From my general knowledge, I knew that the Bible is accepted in Islam as one of their holy texts, so I interpreted this as a religious request."
On Sept. 30, Hunt said, he purchased a Bible and mailed it, still in the publisher's shrink-wrap cover, to a chaplain at the naval base. He included a cover letter explaining it was for Prisoner No. 1094, at Paracha's request. … When Hunt visited in October, Paracha told him nothing had arrived. Hunt said one of the military lawyers "explained to me that Paracha would not be allowed to have a Bible, as that would violate prison policy." Last week, a government lawsuit filed in response said none of the more than 500 prisoners was permitted special treatment.
Government lawyers said Paracha had not shown that the practice of his religion had been "substantially burdened" because he did not have a copy of the Bible. They also argued that letting Paracha have a Bible would set off a "chain reaction" among the other 170 detainees who are suing the government in Washington courts, asking for relief from prison through some sort of court hearing.
Comment: That the U.S. government provides suspected Islamist terrorists with Korans but refuses them Bibles exactly sums up its confusion. (November 22, 2005)
January 17, 2006 update: A New York Sun article quotes a couple of my colleagues are coming around to my point of view that the Bush administration is rushing to elections. Michael Rubin says "The Bush Doctrine is correct, but the implementation is lousy." Ron Dermer worries that the Bush doctrine "has come to mean having elections as soon as possible."
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