BAGRAM DETAINEES CAN CHALLENGE THEIR DETENTION…. The Obama administration resisted, but the courts are forcing the administration to do the right thing.

A federal judge ruled Thursday that prisoners in the war on terror can use U.S. civilian courts to challenge their detention at a military air base in Afghanistan, for the first time extending rights given to Guantanamo Bay detainees elsewhere in the world.

U.S. District Judge John Bates turned down the United States’ motion to deny the right to three foreign detainees at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year [in Boumediene] that detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have the right to challenge their detention in court. But the government had argued that it did not apply to those in Afghanistan.

Bates said the cases were essentially the same. He quoted the Supreme Court ruling repeatedly in his judgment and applied the test created by it to each detainee. It is the first time a federal judge has applied the ruling to detainees in Afghanistan.

Before the right gets too deep into cries of liberal activist judges, let’s note that Bates is a U.S. Army veteran, a former career Justice Department official, a former deputy to Ken Starr during the Whitewater investigation, and was nominated to the federal bench by George W. Bush.

Adam Serwer added some additional context:

Discussing Bates’ ruling, Ken Gude, a human rights expert at the Center for American Progress, says that “there are some practical problems with trying to apply this rule broadly, whether it’s to military detention centers in Afghanistan or Iraq or in some future conflict…these are not frivolous problems.” Gude added that “[t]his is really kind of crying out for action by the Obama administration and Congress. They should get together and try to figure out a way to make this more manageable.” Whatever the Obama administration decides, one hopes that they will simply prosecute terrorist suspects rather than shoehorning them into military detention and then declaring they can be held indefinitely.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.