Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Justification of the Day

We can't have acquittals, we've been holding these guys for years. —William Haynes,1 when he was General Counsel of the Defense Department, as attested by Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor at Guantánamo

Salim Ahmed Hamden, alleged to have been Osama bin Laden's driver, is scheduled to be the first prisoner at Guantánamo to have his case come before a "war-crimes tribunal." This tribunal was cobbled together by the Pentagon after the Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the Bush administration's plan to have the prisoners judged by a military commission was illegal and contrary to international law. After this week's testimony by the former chief prosecutor at Guantánamo, we can only imagine what a farce the originally planned military commission hearings would have been.

Lt. Col. Morris Davis testified at a pre-trial hearing Monday about the Pentagon's efforts to rig the current tribunal (oh—and influence the November 2006 midterm elections while they were at it). Last year the Pentagon refused to allow Davis to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee but could not prevent him from being called as a defense witness in the Hamden case.

According to Michael Mella—

Air Force Col. Morris Davis ... said Pentagon officials showed increased interest in the schedule and the selection of detainees for trial once the prisoners arrived from secret CIA custody in September 2006.

"Suddenly, everybody had strong opinions about how we ought to do our job," Davis said. 'If you can get the 9/11 guys charged, you get the victims' families energized, and if the case is rolling, whoever took the White House would have difficulty stopping this process."

Davis said one Pentagon official [Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England] called for charges to be brought against the detainees ahead of the November 2006 midterm elections. He claimed other officials reversed his policy against using evidence obtained through torture and told him that acquittals would be unacceptable.

Davis said he resigned hours after he was put in a chain of command beneath Defense Department General Counsel William Haynes, one of several officials who had encouraged the use of evidence even if it was gathered through waterboarding -- an interrogation method that simulates drowning. Under rules for the tribunals, known as commissions, it is up to the judge to decide what evidence is admissible.

"The guy who said waterboarding is A-OK I was not going to take orders from. I quit," Davis said.

Davis accused Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, a legal adviser to the official overseeing the tribunal system, of exerting inappropriate influence by simultaneously directing tasks for the prosecution team that was supposed to be independent.

He said Hartmann handpicked prosecutors for different cases and demanded cases that were "sexy" or "had blood on them" and would resonate with the public.

I recall the days when the United States regularly accused the Soviet Union of putting on "political show trials"! Now I wonder which country would put on the better show.

Related posts
Guantánamo: "The cleanest place we're holding people" (6/30/06)
Parsing the Pentagon's Geneva Conventions turnaround (7/11/06)
I told you so... (7/23/06)



1This is the same William "Jim" Haynes that Bush repeatedly attempted to promote in 2006 and 2007 to the 4th District Court of Appeals. Delays in the Judiciary Committee and Democratic gains in the Senate finally convinced the White House to remove him from Bush's list of judicial nominees.

Haynes is now pasturing as Chief Corporate Counsel at Chevron Corporation. [back]

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