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The Naked Emperor

Gabe Rottman,
Legislative Counsel,
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
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July 23, 2007

So, there’s been this weird story circulating in the press generated by the Gitmo debate about a Army reservist who signed an affidavit strongly critical of the Combatant Status Review Process.The reservist, an Army Colonel named Steven Abraham was responsible for running a database that organized and cataloged data related to the CSRTs. He alleges, among many other things, that the intelligence supporting a determination that a particular detainee was, in fact, an “enemy combatant” was often uncorroborated hearsay, innuendo or completely unsupported assertions that detainee X is or was a “jihadist.”

“Nobody stood up and said the emperor’s wearing no clothes,” Colonel Abraham said in an interview. “The prevailing attitude was, ‘If they’re in Guantánamo, they’re there for a reason.’ ”

In addition to the substantive damage done to the Pentagon PR on Gitmo, the Abraham affidavit was also probably the primary impetus behind the Supreme Court’s recent decision to hear a challenge to the Gitmo detentions after previously denying review earlier this year (an extremely rare occurrence).Yet, the strangest aspect of the whole Abraham story is the Pentagon’s pushback. Here’s what they said today in response to a Glaberson Times story about the Abraham allegations.

Pentagon officials say his account indicates that he misunderstood the purpose of the hearings, known as combatant status review tribunals or C.S.R.T.’s, which the officials say “afford greater protections for wartime detainees than any nation has ever provided.”A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Chito Peppler of the Navy, said that Colonel Abraham’s “apparently biased insinuations” did not indicate bad faith or improper behavior by military officials.

What’s really interesting about that particular response is the remark about “bias.” At no point in the article does the Pentagon identify the source of the bias, yet they accuse Abraham of bias twice. They don’t suggest he’s a patsy for the ACLU. They don’t say he himself has sympathies for the detainees. They don’t suggest he’s got an ax to grind with his superiors. They don’t even suggest that he’s a closet Democrat angling for a position in the 2009 administration.I dunno. Maybe, Mr. Pentagon Spokeman, you mean he’s just biased in favor of truth, justice and the American Way? If so, you’re probably right to leave it out. It kills the soundbite.