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Chief Gitmo Prosecutor Retires; Former Secretaries of State Denounce Guantanamo

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March 28, 2008

Col. Morris Davis, an Air Force Judge Advocate and the Pentagon’s former chief prosecutor responsible for bringing charges against the detainees at Guantanamo, has retired from the Air Force, effective November 1, according to the Air Force Times. In October, Davis resigned as chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo after he revealed the over-politicization of the tribunals in a series of newspaper and magazine editorials and maintains that the commissions are essentially rigged. (Davis wasn’t the first to say so, either.) The article continues:

Davis also raised eyebrows in February when he said he plans to testify in the defense for Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s driver and bodyguard. He said he has been asked by the defense to testify at pre-trial hearings that begin April 28. Davis will not testify that the defendant is innocent, he said, but that there are problems with the military commissions process.

Today the Los Angeles Times reports that Hamdan’s attorney, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer, has moved for a dismissal of Hamdan’s case on the grounds that his superior is pressuring military lawyers for quick convictions as this election year ramps up:

Mizer accused Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann – legal advisor to the White House official overseeing terrorism trials at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba – of exercising “unlawful command influence” over both the prosecution and defense. Lawyers participating in the tribunals are members of the U.S. military, and all are subordinate in rank to Hartmann.

Susan Crawford, the commissions’ convening authority, is also named in Mizer’s motion for dismissal. Hartmann and Crawford are the same pair that Davis calls out for over-politicizing the military commissions in his op-eds.

In related Guantanamo news, the Canadian Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week over whether Omar Khadr and his attorneys will be given access to the evidence and testimony against him that the Canadian government has been denying him during his six-year detention at Guantanamo. Included in that evidence are “summaries of interviews Canadian security agents held with Mr. Khadr in 2002.” The Globe & Mail writes:

[Canadian Supreme Court Justice] Louise Charron asked [Canadian justice department lawyer Robert] Frater whether his stance imposed “an impossible burden” on the Khadr lawyers, since they cannot show the role the Canadian information played in U.S. prosecutorial decision-making if they are not told the most basic context of who was given it and the circumstances.

… The [Canadian government’s] position is that the charges against Mr. Khadr are an America[n] affair and lack any genuine connection to Canada that would justify the court’s imposing disclosure obligations under Canadian law.

The Leader-Post quoted Frater:

“You’re not a trial court,” federal lawyer Robert Frater said in his closing argument. Throughout his presentation to the court, Frater said Khadr should be seeking the disclosure of documents from U.S. courts, not Canadian ones, because that’s where the prosecution is taking place.

We couldn’t agree more. Omar Khadr should be tried in U.S. courts, not the sham legal proceedings that continue at Guantanamo Bay.

The L.A. Times also reported today that five former Secretaries of State – Colin Powell, Henry A. Kissinger, James A. Baker III, Warren Christopher and Madeleine K. Albright – called on the next president to close Guantanamo. Baker said:

“It gives us a very, very bad name, not just internationally,” he said. “I have a great deal of difficulty understanding how we can hold someone, pick someone up, particularly someone who might be an American citizen – even if they were caught somewhere abroad, acting against American interests – and hold them without ever giving them an opportunity to appear before a magistrate.”

Obviously Baker, Secretary of State to our current president’s father, has a very good grasp of the concept of habeas corpus – perhaps he could swing by the White House and give President Bush some pointers.