The ruling only applies to prisoners captured outside Afghanistan, but it deals a blow to the Obama administration's intent to keep Bagram as a site for detention for "terrorism suspects" caught outside Iraq or Afghanistan. As befits a regular gulag-style prison, Obama's administration, like his predecessor, refuses to give an account of who among the presumed many hundreds is imprisoned there. They claim that the ruling will only affect about a dozen prisoners, but how can they be believed?
As the NYT puts it (link added):
The administration had sought to preserve Bagram as a haven where it could detain terrorism suspects beyond the reach of American courts, telling Judge Bates in February that it agreed with the Bush administration’s view that courts had no jurisdiction over detainees there.The three prisoners, who, pending the probable government appeal of the decision, won their right to petition a civilian court for their release via the right of habeas corpus, have been locked up in the "spartan" Bagram prison for over six years without a trial. All were captured or apprehended outside Afghanistan and then rendered to Bagram, from which reports of torture and prisoner deaths have emanated for years now.
Judge Bates, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2001, was not persuaded. He said transferring captured terrorism suspects to the prison inside Afghanistan and claiming they were beyond the jurisdiction of American courts “resurrects the same specter of limitless executive power the Supreme Court sought to guard against” in its 2008 ruling that Guantánamo prisoners have a right to habeas corpus.
Bagram prison was also identified as the site where ghost prisoner Aafia Siddiqui was held.
Judge Bates, applying the six-part test the Supreme Court described in its Boumediene ruling last year, called his ruling "narrow." A former Bush administration associate counsel said the decision "gravely undermined" the U.S. in its ability to detain "enemy combatants" in the "war on terror."
But I think the defendants' attorneys said it best:
Tina Foster, the executive director of the International Justice Network, which is representing the four Bagram detainees, praised Judge Bates’s decision as “a very good day for the Constitution and the rule of law.”
Ms. Foster said that the Bagram ruling meant that changes to the Bush detention policies would go beyond merely closing Guantánamo and extend “to any place where the United States seeks to hold individuals in a legal black hole.”