A Triumph of Ill Conceived Language: The Linguistic Origins of Guantanamo's 'Rough Justice'

Hastings Law Journal Voir Dire 1-9 (2013)

9 Pages Posted: 17 Oct 2013

Date Written: October 2013


Throughout the years, the Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay has witnessed an abundance of intriguing linguistic words and phrases. Yet the language that has had the most significant impact throughout the years has been the words and phrases used in the administration of justice regarding the detainees being held on terrorism charges. Wall St. Journal Supreme Court reporter Jess Bravin’s book, 'The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay,' thoroughly chronicles how the use of military commissions came about for the first time since the Second World War, and pointedly demonstrates the abundance of problems they faced once established. In addition to telling the story of Marine Corps lieutenant colonel Stuart Couch, an earnest military prosecutor who later becomes exhaustively disenchanted with the commissions, the book chronicles the new linguistic frontiers in the American legal community. This piece analyzes how particular language used throughout the establishment and execution of the commissions significantly differed from American legal traditions. In particular, the essay focuses on four linguistic changes that had considerable influence: (1) From Due Process to “Full and Fair”; (2) From Classified to “Protected”; (3) From Custodial Interrogation to “Enhanced Interrogation”; and (4) From Acts of Terrorism to “Material Support for Terrorism.”

Keywords: Guantanamo Bay, Jess Bravin, terrorism, courts, justice, military commissions, due process, classified, custodial interrogation

Suggested Citation

Jones, Brian Christopher, A Triumph of Ill Conceived Language: The Linguistic Origins of Guantanamo's 'Rough Justice' (October 2013). Hastings Law Journal Voir Dire 1-9 (2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2340823

Brian Christopher Jones (Contact Author)

University of Dundee ( email )

Dundee, Scotland DD1 4HN
United Kingdom

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