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May 16, 2008

Dissidents within Commissions process give glimmer of hope for American justice

A friend of Maine Owl sends THIS LINK. I have always liked legal reporting by Dahlia Lithwick:

A Few Good Soldiers: More members of the military turn against the terror trials
By Emily Bazelon and Dahlia Lithwick
Posted Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Legal commentators have argued for years about whether there might ever be legitimate trials for the so-called "enemy combatants" we're holding at Guantanamo Bay.... Key actors are declining to play their part in a piece of theater designed to produce all convictions all the time. These refusals, affecting two trials this week, suggest that the whole apparatus?seven years and counting in the making?cannot ever be fixed. The trials are doomed, and they are doomed from the inside out.

Today we learned that the Pentagon has dropped charges against Mohammed al-Qahtani?the alleged 20th hijacker (or maybe the 21st or 22nd, since that title has gone to others before him). Along with five other "high value" detainees, al-Qahtani was facing capital charges at Guantanamo. The decision not to try him comes from the convening authority for the commissions, Susan Crawford. She didn't give an explanation for halting the prosecution, but, then, we don't really need one. As Phillip Carter notes elsewhere in Slate, it's been clear for a while that the evidence against al-Qahtani was torture (or near-torture) tainted, and prosecutors at Guantanamo had announced long ago that "what had been done to him would prevent him from ever being put on trial." In light of all that, you might wonder why he was one of the six trotted out for the big show trials in the first place....
There is a lot of additional coverage in Maine Owl blogs. For more in this blog, on the situation with the military commissions and the chafing of Col. Davis due to their injustice, please see HERE, HERE, and HERE. I also recommend my interviews with Maine Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Shenna Bellows, available HERE and HERE. THIS Shenna Bellows program too.

Update: First, I fixed a garbled sentence in the last paragraph. Also, in post 431, I noted the claims of fairness of the trials presented by Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann on February 11. It turns out that Hartmann was party to pretrial instructions that would have foreclosed the possibility of acquittal. How's that for justice? In the Slate piece, it is reported that Keith Allred, the military judge presiding over the Hamdan case, has rebuked Hartmann and removed him from the case:
Allred still isn't quite prepared to play his designated part. Last Friday, he disqualified Davis' old boss Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann from any further participation in Hamdan's prosecution. Hartmann has to back off, even though he is the tribunals' official legal adviser. In a written opinion, Allred took the general to task for attempting to direct Davis "to use evidence that the Chief Prosecutor considered tainted and unreliable, or perhaps obtained as the result of torture or coercion."
This was reported in some media earlier this week. I missed it. But the source I cited for Hartmann's February 11 remarks, the PBS News Hour, has not seen fit to do so.


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