Two Prosecutors at Guantanamo Quit in Protest

views updated

Two Prosecutors at Guantanamo Quit in Protest

Newspaper article

By: Jess Bravin

Date: August 1, 2005

Source: Bravin, Jess. "Two Prosecutors at Guantanamo Quit in Protest." The Wall Street Journal (August 1, 2005).

About the Author: Jess Bravin is a staff reporter for the Wall Street Journal, an international business and finance news publication based in New York.


Since the Spanish-American War of 1898, the United States has controlled the territory on both sides of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, an area of about 45 square miles (116 square kilometers). The U.S. Navy has used the inholding as a military base, but since 2002, camps at the facility have also been used to hold between five hundred and seven hundred persons captured in various countries, primarily Afghanistan and Iraq. The prisoners are alleged by the United States to be "the worst of the worst" (Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, 2002), the most dangerous persons captured in what the United States and many media outlets term "the war on terror." Said Secretary Rumsfeld on June 27, 2005, "If you think of the people down there, these are people, all of whom were captured on a battlefield. They're terrorists, trainers, bomb makers, recruiters, financiers, [Osama bin Laden's] bodyguards, would-be suicide bombers, probably the twentieth 9/11 hijacker."

In 2001, President George W. Bush ordered that military commissions would be created to try select Guantanamo detainees for war crimes. These commissions are superficially court-like: there are judges, lawyers for the defense, and lawyers for the prosecution. However, in the Guantanamo tribunals evidence for the prosecution can be kept secret from the defense and the accused can only use lawyers approved by the Defense Department (i.e., in effect, the prosecution).

In 2005, while preparing the case against four alleged war criminals, two military officers resigned from the prosecution team in protest. The Wall Street Journal and New York Times broke the story simultaneously on August 1, 2005, reporting that internal e-mails from the two officers had accused the military commission trial process of being "rigged" to produce convictions. They accused colleagues of withholding or destroying evidence, such as documents detailing charges that one of the accused had confessed under torture. (Confessions given under torture are notoriously unreliable because a torture victim will say anything to make the torture stop.)

The Defense Department vigorously denied all the charges brought by the two officers. The chief prosecutor, who had been repeatedly criticized by one of the resigning officers, said that the accusations against him were "monstrous lies."

[This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions]

[This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions]

[This text has been suppressed due to author restrictions]


The legality of the U.S. detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other prisons outside the United States, as well as at secret prisons run by the CIA in Eastern Europe and other locations, has been challenged numerous times since 2002. The United States has been accused of illegal detention, kidnapping, torture, and rigged or sham legal processes. In 2004, FBI agents reported that torture was being used at Guantanamo. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights stated in 2004 that the United States was systematically torturing and inflicting "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" (also illegal) on Guantanamo detainees. In February 2006, the Commission called for the United States to close down Guantanamo. In 2004, a confidential report of the International Committee of the Red Cross was leaked in which the organization concluded that officially approved U.S. interrogation practices at Guantanamo were "tantamount to torture." The United States has stated repeatedly that all detainees are held legally and treated humanely.

A number of lawsuits have been brought on behalf of Guantanamo detainees. In June 2004, the U.S. Supreme court held in Rasul v. Bush that U.S. courts do have jurisdiction to consider legal challenges to detentions of foreign nationals at Guantanamo. In response—though the legal adequacy of this response has itself been disputed—the U.S. government created the Combatant Status Review Tribunals in July 2004. These tribunals were held from July 2004 to March 2005 and were charged with determining whether individual detainees could be classified as illegal combatants on the basis of evidence. Each tribunal consisted of three U.S. military officers who reviewed the status of individual prisoners. Of several hundred detainees reviewed, the tribunal found that thirty-eight were not combatants, illegal or otherwise; however, only four of this group had yet been released as of May 2006.

Like the military commission conducting war trials, the status-review tribunal process has been accused of being a rigged or sham procedure. In 2005, the complete file on a German-Turkish prisoner, Murat Kurnaz, was accidentally released. Although the tribunal had concluded that that Kurnaz was a member of the terrorist organization Al Qaeda, according to the Washington Post (March 27, 2005) the evidence in the file almost all tended to establish Kurnaz's innocence. It showed that both U.S. military intelligence and German police had concluded that Kurnaz was not linked to Al Qaeda or any other terrorist organization. The only evidence against Kurnaz was an anonymous note alleging that he is a terrorist.

In 2005, transcripts of Combatant Status Review Tribunal proceedings (with portions censored) were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Associated Press. A review of this and other declassified information found that, despite Secretary Rumsfeld's claim that "these are people, all of whom were captured on a battlefield," the majority of Guantanamo detainees were not captured on any battlefield but were rendered into American hands by third parties, sometimes in exchange for cash bounties. Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA's unit dedicated to capturing Osama bin Laden, the head of Al Qaeda, resigned in 2004 and claimed publicly that less than ten percent of Guantanamo detainees were terrorists.

The Defense Department states that it has investigated the charges made by the two officers who resigned in protest at the conduct of the Guantanamo military trials, and determined, in the words of spokesperson Lawrence Di Rita, that the charges were "much ado about nothing." The U.S. government categorically denies that prisoners are mistreated at Guantanamo, that innocent persons are held there, or that the procedures used to determine their status are inadequate.



Saar, Erik and Viveca Novak. Inside the Wire: A Military Intelligence Soldier's Eyewitness Account of Life at Guantanamo. New York: Penguin Press, 2005.


Eggen, Dan and Jeffery R. Smith. "FBI Agents Allege Abuse of Detainees at Guantanamo Bay." The Washington Post (December 21, 2004): A1.

Farley, Maggie. "Report: U.S. is Abusing Captives." The New York Times (February 13, 2006): A1.

Hegland, Corine. "Empty Evidence." The National Journal (February 4, 2006).

Leonnig, Carol D. "Panel Ignored Evidence on Detainee: U.S. Military Intelligence, German Authorities Found No Ties to Terrorists." The Washington Post (March 27, 2005).

Lewis, Neil A. "Two Prosecutors Faulted Trials for Detainees." The New York Times (August 1, 2005).

Web sites

Jurist Legal News Archiva. "Guantanamo." <> (accessed May 16, 2006).

About this article

Two Prosecutors at Guantanamo Quit in Protest

Updated About content Print Article