It has become something of a convention in the copious journalism surrounding the Guantanamo habeas litigations to keep a win-loss scorecard. A typical example is this recent story by Miami Herald reporter Carol Rosenberg, who writes:
Judge John Bates’ ruling, his first on a Guantánamo habeas corpus petition, left the so-called government win-loss scorecard at 16-38 in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
That means that judges have ruled more than twice as often for the release of detainees at Guantánamo, rather than holding them.
But in this case Bates rejected Shawali Khan’s unlawful detention lawsuit in a one-page order released Friday afternoon. His opinion was not released but a court order said an unclassified version would be released “at a later date.” (link added)
There is nothing inaccurate about reporting a scorecard, though different media organizations and advocates use slightly different numbers and I haven’t bothered to check who is right. The reason is that particularly in its endless repetition, the scorecard conveys something of a skewed impression of what’s going on in these cases. To see why, let’s take apart the scorecard apart.