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Guantanamo as a 'Legal Black Hole': A Base for Expanding Space, Markets, and Culture
University of San Francisco Law Review (2010)
  • Ernesto A. Hernandez-Lopez

Guantanamo appears as a "legal black hole" especially when examining detainee rights, but in reality empire purposefully creates these jurisdictional anomalies. To further U.S. interests overseas in 1903, base jurisdiction was crafted as anomalous between Cuban sovereignty and American occupation. For the 174 still detained, it's still a black hole. After four Supreme Court decisions, anomaly continues to pervade detention litigation. Functional tests for extraterritorial constitutional rights, habeas proceedings, and the unclear fate of Uighur-detainees all suffer from doctrinal obfuscation. Detainees rights, or lack of, are just one aspect of anomaly. Empire's dynamic forces produced these ambiguities. Guantanamo represents American assumptions on: expanding geographic authority, overseas market protections, and cultural superiority. Alejandro Colas explains empires require these three, i.e. "space, markets, and culture." Accordingly, this Essay explores the base and: extraterritorial authority as "empire's space," intelligence acquired through detention for resources wars as "empire's markets," and discriminatory detention for Middle-Eastern and Central Asian nationals as "empire's culture." This Essay asks how assumptions on these three concepts shape law's extraterritorial application.

  • Guantanamo,
  • extraterritorial,
  • habeas,
  • war on terror,
  • post-colonialism,
  • empire
Publication Date
Citation Information
Ernesto A. Hernandez-Lopez, Guantanamo as a 'Legal Black Hole': A Base for Expanding Space, Markets, and Culture, 45 U.S.F. L. Rev. 141 (2010). Available at: