Strong opinions, weakly held

Gitmo is a joke

Hopefully you won’t be surprised to learn that the Bush administration treats the prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba as just another political tool to help build support for its policies. We learn this from recent statements made by Colonel Morris Davis, the chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo, who resigned last month.

Here’s how we decide which of the detainees should be charged with crimes:

According to Davis, for more than a year Pentagon officials have sought to influence his decisions about “who we will charge, what we will charge, what evidence we will try to introduce, and how we will conduct a prosecution.” For example, speaking last week to the Wall Street Journal, he explained that in September 2006, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England discussed with him the “strategic political value” in charging some of the prisoners before the midterm elections. Similarly, in January 2007, Pentagon General Counsel William J. Haynes II (himself on the verge of being withdrawn as a nominee for the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals because of his involvement with the infamous “torture memos”) telephoned Davis to prod him to charge David Hicks, apparently as a political accommodation to the Australian Prime Minister. Even after Haynes was advised that this interference was improper, he again called Davis, suggesting that he charge other prisoners at the same time to avoid the impression that the charges were “a political solution to the Hicks case.”

More recently, Davis filed a formal complaint alleging that Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann, the Legal Advisor to the authority overseeing the military commissions process, had pushed him to file cases that would attract more public attention and garner support for the tribunal system, even though such cases would require secretive, closed proceedings. (By Pentagon regulation, the Legal Advisor is supposed to be an impartial administrator of justice, not an arm of the prosecution.)

You can be certain that the Bush administration and its defenders will vilify Colonel Davis, but let’s be clear on one thing, until recently, he was a devoted member of that camp:

For years, Davis has been the Administration’s de facto spokesperson in defense of the military commissions. He has penned encomiums to Guantánamo in publications from the New York Times to the Yale Law Journal, where he decried “those who want to sell a false and ugly picture of the facilities and the process.” Last year, Davis was particularly vociferous in attacking Major Michael Mori, David Hicks’s defense counsel, for speaking in public about the failures of the Guantánamo legal system, even suggesting that Mori could be charged under Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for speaking contemptuously about top U.S. officials.

All this just goes to illustrate why the United States has a Constitution and Bill of Rights in the first place. Given extreme power and extreme secrecy, any government will regress toward corruption. Having allowed the Bush administration to invent a bunch of exceptions where our legal system doesn’t apply will haunt us for a long time to come.

(Link via Unqualified Offerings.)


  1. A bit off topic-

    As former Marine had I been captured and subjected to these enhanced interrogation techniques I would expect the United States to pursue the people responsible for them.

    To the best of my ability I have never heard anyone asking those in power that If US troops were subjected to any of these measures would they prosecute our captors. (water boarding has been prosecuted as a war crime in the past.)

    Believe me a lot of people in uniform are wondering just that.

  2. I read the other day that a State Department official hedged when asked whether we would go after a foreign country that subjected a US soldier to waterboarding.

    I should have bookmarked the article.

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