Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Torture and the Terror Trials At Guantánamo

Photos from internet cache/wires here and others below...this one not necessarily from GTMO trials yet here to suggest that the role of law is directly related to honest witness.

The following article was posted by Andy Worthington December 1, 2008 (Be sure also to see the other items below which are related to this one...especially the three noted with ***)

Torture, Preventative Detention and the Terror Trials at Guantanamo

In the real world outside the US Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Barack Obama’s pledge to close Guantánamo and scrap the Military Commissions (the system of trials for “terror suspects” that was established in the wake of the 9/11 attacks) has provoked a rare outburst of frenzied media coverage.

With no concrete plans announced by the President-Elect’s transition team, pundits and off-the-record officials of all political hues have stepped in to fill the void with speculation about the significance of the remaining 255 prisoners, some shrill demands for legislation endorsing “preventive detention,” some equally shrill warnings that robust techniques will be needed in future to deal with captured terrorists, and a range of opinions about whether the Guantánamo prisoners regarded as a genuine threat to the United States (estimates range from several dozen prisoners to around 80) should be transferred to the US mainland to face trials in federal courts or in another brand-new system.

Some of these opinions are genuinely troubling, and reveal the extent to which the government’s fear-filled “War on Terror” rhetoric of the last seven years has permeated the US psyche. Proposals to create new legislation authorizing “preventive detention,” for example, actually seek to justify much of what the Bush administration has been doing at Guantánamo, and it beggars belief that citizens in a civilized society founded on the rule of law could attempt to justify imprisoning people not for what they have done, but to prevent what they could conceivably do in future.

The proposal is doubly disturbing because the government’s assertions that some of the prisoners may be dangerous comes not from evidence that can be tested in a court of law, but from intelligence reports that may or may not be reliable, and from hearsay and confessions — made by other prisoners, or by the prisoners themselves — that may have been produced through the use of torture or other forms of coercion, or through bribery (a well-chronicled “rewards” system for prisoners regarded as “cooperative”).

In addition, calls for robust techniques to deal with terror suspects captured in the future are clearly influenced by the Bush administration’s arguments that prisoners seized in the “War on Terror” constitute a threat of a kind never encountered before, and that this threat justifies its attempts to redefine torture, and its endorsement of the use of torture by US forces. For the record, torture, as defined in the UN Convention Against Torture (to which the US is a signatory) is defined as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person,” and not, as the US administration claimed in its notorious “Torture Memo” of August 2002, an act producing pain which is “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.”

Those endorsing greater latitude to deal with terror suspects in future have presumably forgotten the extent to which the administration has belittled the intelligence agencies’ skilled interrogators, who contributed to 107 successful terrorist prosecutions in US federal courts without resorting to the use of torture, and its disdain for the psychological techniques enshrined in the Army Field Manual, which not only prohibits the use of torture, but of any kind of physical violence. Both, however, have a proven track record of success, unlike the torturers, whose activities constitute war crimes, however much the Bush administration has attempted to disguise them, and are also morally corrosive and counter-productive, producing, at best, ripples of truth in a sea of false confessions, with no practical way of separating fact from fiction.

Much of this has been confirmed by Dan Coleman, a senior FBI interrogator who worked on several high-profile terrorism cases before the 9/11 attacks. Coleman is on record as stating that “people don’t do anything unless they’re rewarded.” In an interview in 2006 with the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, he acknowledged that brutality may “yield a timely scrap of information,” but is “completely insufficient” in the longer fight against terrorism. “You need to talk to people for weeks. Years,” he explained.

When it comes to proposals to establish a new trial system for terror suspects, those putting forward such ideas have obviously failed to scrutinize the failures of the system conceived by Dick Cheney and his close advisers in November 2001. Thrown out by the Supreme Court in June 2006, the Commissions were revived by Congress later that year, but have struggled to establish their legitimacy, primarily because the government-appointed military judges are empowered to accept evidence obtained through coercion, to prevent all mention of evidence obtained through torture, and to blur the distinction between the two, and also because, as I reported at length in a previous article, a growing body of evidence indicates that the entire system is rigged, with Pentagon representatives who are supposed to be impartial actually taking their orders from the heavily biased Office of the Vice President.

It remains to be seen how this chain of command — which pivots on the role played by retired judge Susan Crawford, the Commission’s “Convening Authority,” and a close friend of both Dick Cheney and his chief of staff David Addington — will survive the transition to the Obama administration, but enthusiasts for the creation of another brand-new system should really take on board the sustained opposition to the Commissions that has been mounted from within.

Those who have become implacably opposed to the system are not only the military defense lawyers, who have been prepared to sacrifice their careers in defense of justice, but also Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor, and several former prosecutors, including, most recently, Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, who turned from being a “true believer to someone who felt truly deceived” by the system, when he discovered that evidence vital to the defense was being routinely withheld in the case of Mohamed Jawad, an Afghan teenager accused of a grenade attack on US forces in December 2002.

In the meantime, while enthusiasts for a new trial system indulge their largely abstract musings, the reality of the Commissions themselves continues to confound reality, as those in charge of the process persist in behaving as though it is business as usual...

To read the rest of this article look for December 1, 2008...
Other NEW and Older - similar or differing perspectives on the commissions from new and older articles (NOT from Andy Worthington's site)

NEWEST ITEMS - Dec 2, 2008 Holder Must Balance Security, Rights Leopold on Consortium News, Robert Parry's site:

And also:



Also see the following on Susan Crawford:

Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, Legal Advisor for the Office of Military Commissions, briefs members of the media about the U.S. Military Commissions process, at the legal complex of the U.S. Military Commissions, at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, in Cuba in this June 4, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Brennan Linsley/Pool

The following are RELATED yet not on Andy's site...

U.S. reassigns Guantanamo court's top lawyer WIRES story & Photo - Reuters
September 20, 2008 - 12:00 a.m. EST

Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, Legal Advisor for the Office of Military Commissions, briefs members of the media about the U.S. Military Commissions process, at the legal complex of the U.S. Military Commissions, at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, in Cuba in this June 4, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Brennan Linsley/Pool

MIAMI (Reuters) - A U.S. general who was banned from three Guantanamo trials will no longer act as the legal advisor for the Guantanamo war crimes court, the Pentagon said on Friday.

But Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann will still play a role in the terrorism trials at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Pentagon said he had been appointed to the newly created job of operations and planning director for the military tribunals.

As legal adviser since July 2007, Hartmann's job was to provide impartial legal advice to Susan Crawford, the Pentagon appointee who oversees the trials and validates charges for prosecution. The legal adviser also plays a role in the appeals process for prisoners convicted of terrorism charges.

Hartmann was the subject of numerous complaints from military defense lawyers, who alleged that he illegally influenced the cases and essentially took over prosecution duties, in one case withholding a document that could have influenced the decision to validate the charges.

Another general testified in an August hearing that Hartmann was a bully who used a "spray and pray" approach to pursuing cases -- "Charge 'em, charge 'em, charge 'em and let's pray that we can pull this off."

Military judges barred Hartmann from various phases of three trials, and complaints about him were pending in others.

In an August hearing, Hartmann acknowledged telling prosecutors he wanted cases that would "capture the public's imagination."


The allegations against him by his colleagues revealed some of the division within the U.S. military about the tribunal process that human rights monitors had long portrayed as politically driven and rigged to convict.

Friday's Pentagon announcement did not mention the controversy but credited Hartmann with getting the sluggish trials, formally known as military commissions, moving.

"Gen. Hartmann has driven the commissions process forward since his arrival in July 2007. In no small part because of his efforts and his dedication, the commissions are an active, operational legal system," Daniel J. Dell'Orto, the Defense Department's acting general counsel, said in the announcement.

Twenty-four Guantanamo prisoners have been charged under the current trial system that replaced one struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court as illegal in 2006, though charges against one were dismissed.

The United States began sending suspected al Qaeda and Taliban captives to Guantanamo in 2002. Of about 255 detainees now in Guantanamo, government agencies say 60 to 80 face the special military tribunals.

The first full trial was only completed in August, with the conviction of Osama bin Laden's Yemeni driver, Salim Hamdan. He was sentenced to about five more months in prison for providing material support for terrorism.

The deputy legal advisor, Michael Chapman, was appointed as the new legal advisor. He retired from the military as a colonel in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps after nearly 30 years of active duty, and had been working with the Guantanamo tribunals since 2005.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, one of the defense lawyers who succeeded in limiting Hartmann's further involvement in a case, called his reassignment "a thin veneer for what amounts to being fired for his excessive and unlawful interference in the military commissions process."

"The real problem is that simply reassigning the general does not cure the taint resulting from his conduct," said Kuebler, who is defending Canadian captive Omar Khadr in a trial set for November.

Khadr, who is charged with murder and accused of throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier in a firefight in Afghanistan, turned 22 on Friday. He was captured at age 15 and sent to Guantanamo shortly after his 16th birthday.

(Editing by Jim Loney and Jackie Frank)


Letter To Susan Crawford, Convening Authority, Office of Military Commissions (6/3/2008)

Susan J. Crawford
Convening Authority
Department of Defense
Office of Military Commissions
1600 Defense Pentagon
Rm. 3B652
Washington DC 20301-1600

June 3, 2008

Dear Ms. Crawford:

Many of us learned for the first time this week that only one relative of a 9/11 victim was invited to attend the proceedings at Guantánamo Bay. The Defense Department’s belated disclosure that Debra Burlingame, a staunch supporter of this administration and the military commission system, was secretly invited to attend the arraignment of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is but the latest example of a covert, politicized military commission system that has little hope of bringing any legitimate outcome.

As people who lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks of 9/11, we want nothing more than to see that justice is served in the prosecution of suspects. However, we know that no justice will come out of a system that has been compromised by politics and stripped of the rule of law. Unfortunately, the government insists on trying those accused of participating in the 9/11 attacks in military commissions that operate largely outside the realm of public scrutiny and rely on confessions derived by torture, secret evidence that a defendant cannot rebut, and hearsay.

The American public has every right to expect that prosecutions of 9/11 suspects will be conducted in a fair, open and honest manner that is not compromised by crass political considerations. Selectively inviting only 9/11 family members whose views are in alignment with those of the Bush administration is only one example of the repeated attempts to infuse politics into what should be an impartial process that has the goal of achieving justice.

We know that we are not the only ones who object to the illegitimacy of these proceedings. Respected military figures as well as law enforcement officials like Janet Reno and William Webster have spoken out. And in an effort to make this system more in line with our constitutional values, the American Civil Liberties Union has assembled civilian legal teams to assist the woefully under-resourced military defense counsel. If the prosecution of these suspects is carried out in a manner that is not in accordance with American values of due process, the rule of law, and transparency, any verdict will lack legitimacy and we will be left to wonder if those responsible for the deaths of our loved ones have really been brought to justice.


Anne M. Mulderry
Mother of Stephen V. Mulderry

Adele Welty
Mother of Firefighter Timothy Welty

Mindy Kleinberg
Wife of Alan Kleinberg

Lorie Van Auken
Wife of Kenneth Van Auken

Patricia Perry
Mother of Police Officer John Perry

Monica Gabrielle
Wife of Richard Gabrielle

Patty Casazza
Wife of John F. Casazza

cc: Capt. Karen Loftus, DoD OGC

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