By Andrew O. Selsky
May 29, 2008
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Defense lawyers accused the government of rushing the Sept. 11 defendants to trial at Guantánamo to influence the U.S. presidential elections, and asked the military judge to dismiss the case in a court filing obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.
The filing also shows that the former chief prosecutor at Guantánamo, who resigned in October over alleged political interference, was sanctioned by the military on May 23 after testifying for the defense in a Guantánamo hearing.
The former prosecutor, Air Force Col. Morris Davis, wrote that the action will discourage any other military members from providing information about the controversial war-crimes tribunals. The tribunals’ legal adviser, Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, told the AP Davis was sanctioned because of poor job performance and not because he testified.
Military lawyers for alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-defendants revealed that prosecutors are seeking a Sept. 15 trial date — weeks before the Nov. 4 election.
The five men accused of mounting the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed almost 3,000 people are to be arraigned June 5 at the U.S. Navy base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — the most high-profile of the military commissions, as the war-crimes proceedings are called.
“It is safe to say that there are senior officials in the military commission process who believe that there would be strategic political value to having these five men sitting in a death chamber on Nov. 4, 2008,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer, a defense attorney.
Davis recently testified that while he was chief prosecutor, “There was that consistent theme that if we don’t get these (trials) rolling before the election, this thing is going to implode, and if you get the 9/11 guys charged it would be hard … for whoever wins the White House to stop the process.”
Sen. John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee for president, supported the Military Commissions Act that in 2006 resurrected the war-crimes tribunals after the Supreme Court earlier declared the previous system unconstitutional.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, who are battling for the Democratic nomination, opposed the measure. Hartmann denied political interference affected decisions on whom to try and when to try them.
“It has not existed at all,” Hartmann told the AP on Wednesday. “I say that absolutely, without equivocation.”
But at an April 28 hearing for Osama bin Laden’s former driver and bodyguard, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Davis testified that Hartmann pushed to pursue “sexy” cases over less dramatic ones. The military judge subsequently ordered Hartmann’s removal as legal adviser in that proceeding.
Documents attached to the new filing showed the military acted against Davis less than a month after his testimony, saying he had served dishonorably and would be denied a medal for his more than two years as prosecutor.
Hartmann, who had clashed with Davis when he was chief prosecutor, said he didn’t get the decoration because “his performance was not up to standard.” Hartmann worked with Davis from July to October 2007.
“He had a very important position as chief prosecutor, and had an obligation to lead people, to inspire them and to train them,” Hartmann said by telephone. “And that wasn’t happening.”
In response, Davis e-mailed AP a performance report from Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hemingway, Hartmann’s predecessor, that said Davis’ “personable leadership style infused enthusiasm and focus despite political uncertainty, delays, countless issues” in the Bush administration’s attempts to bring suspected terrorists to trial. The review, covering September 2006-April 2007, said Davis was the “perfect choice” to “bring masterminds of 9/11, USS Cole, & embassy bombings to justice.”
“I have got no regrets about the way I ran things,” Davis told AP. “I will put my leadership up against (Hartmann’s) any day.”
In their filing Wednesday to Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann, the judge presiding over the Sept. 11 trial, the lawyers asked for Hartmann to be removed as legal adviser to war-crimes trials. Sixteen of the 260 men being held under indefinite detention at Guantánamo face trial after having been charged.
Source URL: http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hZXxZ9jWlnYZ5G_1_W_-FG8F2vHwD90VLAVG2
RELATED, from CNN.com/WORLD:
Attorneys: Terrorism trials rushed to influence election
(CNN) — Defense lawyers for five suspected al Qaeda members asked a military appeals court Thursday to delay their clients’ arraignments because several of the attorneys have not received security clearances that would allow them to participate in the hearing.
Lawyers for five September 11 suspects at Guantánamo Bay say the cases are being rushed for political reasons.
“I’ve never seen a military judge hold a hearing when all detailed counsel are not present,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer, an attorney representing accused al Qaeda figure Ali Abdul Aziz Ali. “It is offensive to me the government would seek to proceed in a death penalty case without all detailed counsel present.”
Mizer’s client and four other defendants are being held at the U.S. prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on charges related to the September 11 attacks.
The defendants, who face the death penalty, are scheduled for arraignment June 5 after a judge declined a previous request to postpone the proceedings.
The defense attorneys have accused prosecutors of rushing their clients to trial to influence the November presidential elections.
The accusations were made in recent court filings obtained by CNN and in a statement from Mizer. Prosecutors have not responded to the allegations in public or in court documents.
The attorneys claim that they have had only a few hours to meet with their clients and that the cases are being fast-tracked for political reasons.
“Three months and 18 days is not enough time to prepare a defense in this death penalty case, even if the government had provided the defense with the attorneys, resources and facilities necessary to do so,” Mizer said.
Ramzi bin al-Shibh is facing trial on allegations that he researched flight schools for the hijackers and acted as an intermediary between the hijackers and al Qaeda leaders.
Walid bin Attash is accused of training two hijackers and assisting in the hijacking plan.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged September 11 mastermind, is also facing trial, along with Mustafa al-Hawsawi, who is accused of providing money, clothes and credit cards to some of the hijackers.
The process of bringing the suspects to trial before military tribunals at Guantánamo Bay has been fraught with difficulty.
A 2006 Supreme Court ruling struck down a form of the commissions and forced the Bush administration to create the military tribunals.
Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor for the tribunals, resigned in October, declaring that they had become “deeply politicized.”
A judge ruled this month that Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann improperly pressured prosecutors in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, the former driver and bodyguard for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Davis testified against Hartmann in an April hearing over the allegations, which resulted in a judge ordering Hartmann to stay out of the case.
Hartmann denied that he felt pressure to get the trials under way before the presidential election because the cases involved September 11 suspects.
“This case is as important as any other case. The core function remains the same: fairness, justice, equity, transparency,” Hartmann said.
“Each case is important to the accused. Each case is important to his defense counsel. Each case is important to the prosecution. Each case is important to the American public,” he said.
Hartmann said Thursday that he could not comment on specific filings. In general, he said, the proceedings were unrelated to the “timing of any election or any political factor.”
CNN’s Carol Cratty and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.
Source URL: http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/05/29/Guantánamo.commission/
Former Gitmo prosecutor claims retaliation
From Carol Cratty
CNN Senior Producer
WASHINGTON (CNN) — The former chief prosecutor of military commissions at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, said Thursday that he was denied a service medal for criticizing the trial process.
Col. Morris Davis says the military is retaliating against him for criticizing Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, above.
Last week, Air Force Col. Morris Davis said he was notified that he was denied the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, a relatively common decoration issued for achievement in a non-combat assignment.
Davis quit his post in October, declaring that the prosecutions of several suspected terrorists had become “deeply politicized.”
He was particularly critical of Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, legal adviser to the military commissions.
The former prosecutor said this month that Hartmann failed to maintain a neutral position in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s former driver.
“He basically suited up and played for the prosecution,” Davis said.
Based on testimony and evidence from the proceedings, a military judge ruled that Hartmann acted improperly and ordered him to stay out of the cases.
Davis, who said he previously received positive job reviews, thinks it is no coincidence that he was denied the commendation less than a month after he testified in Hamdan’s case.
“I don’t know what to call this other than reprisal,” he said.
The military assistant to the Pentagon’s general counsel’s office, Col. Kelly Wheaton, told Davis in an e-mail that he was denied the medal because his service “has not been honorable.”
“I wrote in my recommendation for disapproval that you quit your position when you were needed because you did not want to be supervised by a superior officer with whom you had a difference of opinion,” Wheaton told Davis in an e-mail he shared with CNN. “I believe that this conduct was putting self above service.”
Davis said he disagreed with the decision.
“If you can’t differentiate unlawful command influence from a personal conflict, you have my deepest sympathy,” Davis said he replied.
Hartmann said the reasoning behind the decision not to award Davis the medal “certainly was not retribution.”
“My recommendation was based on my experience with Col. Davis,” he said.
Hartmann said he believed that Davis showed a lack of leadership and failed to provide overall guidance to his office.
Hartmann said Davis did not train personnel under him appropriately and failed to provide them with the basic skills needed to prepare documents for trial.
He said the recommendations were a while in the making and maintained that they were not influenced by Davis’ testimony.
“His comments and his attitude and his behavior after October 4, 2007, have nothing to do and had nothing to do with any recommendation,” Hartmann said.
Hartmann said Wednesday that he did not believe he exerted any undue influence on prosecutors or the system.
Meanwhile, defense lawyers for several al Qaeda suspects facing trial before the military tribunals have cited Davis’ allegations to argue that Bush administration officials are trying to rush the cases to influence the November presidential elections.
Davis, who is scheduled to retire October 1 after 25 years of service, said he told defense lawyers for other commission defendants that he will not participate in their cases.
He said he fears that further action may be taken against him if he continues to speak out, adding that his testimony is already hurting him as he looks for a job in the private sector.
Source URL: http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/05/29/Guantánamo.prosecutor/?iref=hpmostpop
Lawyer fears 9/11 mastermind trial will be ‘insanity’
By Kelli Arena and Carol Cratty
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Prescott Prince is a small-town lawyer who has never taken a death penalty case to trial. Yet he finds himself involved in one of the biggest capital punishment cases this century: He’s defending the alleged mastermind of the September 11 terror attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. art.ksmattorney.cnn.jpg
Prescott Prince says the suspected 9/11 mastermind deserves a fair trial.
He readily acknowledges how his client is perceived as “one of the most reviled people” in the world. But he says it’s imperative that America give Mohammed a fair trial, just like anyone else accused of a crime.
No civilian court, he says, would accept confessions obtained after a defendant was mistreated. But the CIA admits Mohammed was waterboarded, a controversial interrogation technique that involves simulated drowning.
“I take the position that this is mock execution. … Colloquially speaking, at least it’s torture,” Prince said.
The fact that whatever Mohammed said during such duress could be used at trial is alarming to Prince.
“That’s not the rule of law. That’s just insanity.” [Video: Watch waterboarding is “mock execution”]
A Navy reservist who has been called to active duty, Prince, 53, rejects the suggestion that he is less than patriotic for representing an accused terrorist. “I had friends who were at the Pentagon the day it was attacked, so I don’t accept the concept of ‘gee, I don’t know what it’s like.’ ”
Prince is currently visiting the detention center at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba to meet his client. He was denied a meeting with Mohammed on Wednesday due to procedural problems; he will try again today.
Before Prince headed to Guantánamo, he said he had no idea whether Mohammed will accept him as his lawyer. He says he’s gone over what he’s going to say “about a hundred times a day.”
He’s been reading the Quran and has met with psychologists and other lawyers who have represented accused terrorists. “This would not be the first time I’ve met with a client who initially did not want, if you will, court-appointed counsel,” he said. “I’ve had clients call me almost any name in the book. I’ve had them refuse to come see me.” [Video: Meet the attorney defending suspected 9/11 mastermind]
Still, Prince realizes that this is different. Very different.
Read government transcript of Mohammed’s ‘confession’
Mohammed has been in custody since he was caught in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, in 2003. He was transferred from a secret location to Guantánamo in 2006. The government says he confessed to his involvement in the September 11 attacks and many other terrorist plots.
The government said in February that six terror suspects, including Mohammed, would go before military commissions and could face the death penalty if it is judged they were involved in the September 11 attacks. The proceedings are governed by the Military Commissions Act, which Congress passed to handle arrestees in the war on terror. [See the terror suspects who could face the death penalty]
The act requires detainees have access to lawyers as well as to any evidence presented against them. They also will have the right to appeal a guilty verdict, potentially through a civilian appeals court and perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court, according to the act. [Video: Watch general describe charges against al Qaeda suspects]
In the case of Mohammed, the government acknowledged that he was subjected to waterboarding, a harsh interrogation technique that many experts believe violates the Geneva Conventions’ ban on torture. Waterboarding involves strapping a person to a surface, covering the face with cloth and pouring water over the cloth to imitate the sensation of drowning.
Prince finds that extremely troubling because, he says, a civilian court would never admit evidence gained through a coerced statement. The government says Mohammed has confessed to September 11 and other terror plots.
“Even the greenest deputy sheriff or rookie police officer in Skunk Hollow County knows that if you rough up a defendant, anything he says after that is not going to be admitted into court,” Prince said. “The officer might not like those rules, but he understands them and will abide by them.”
But a judge in a military commission could have it entered into evidence. “We have created a system under the military commissions that says, in essence, ‘if he was roughed up but what he says still seems reliable, we’ll accept it any way.’ And that’s just wrong.”
Prince says there are other complications. He may not have the chance to cross-examine Mohammed’s accusers and may not see all the evidence to be put forward in court. [Video: Watch families of 9/11 victims push for fair trials]
Prince doesn’t believe that Mohammed can get a fair trial and says the country risks trashing “our constitutional values when it becomes convenient to do so.”
“I don’t want to impugn anyone’s character, but this is where Ronald Reagan’s term ‘trust but verify’ will come into play,” he said.
The military has assigned him a three-person team consisting of another lawyer, an intelligence analyst and a paralegal. The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers have also teamed up to find volunteers to help Prince and the other lawyers defending accused terrorists at Guantánamo Bay.
Norman Reimer, the executive director of the NACDL, explained the daunting task this way:”It’s going to require all of the ingenuity and resources, not just to defend the accused but to defend the American system of justice and what we stand for in the world. That’s what this is about.”
Two lawyers from Boise, Idaho, have agreed to help Prince. No strangers to terrorism cases, David Nevin and Scott McKay won an acquittal for a Saudi man who faced terror charges.
Prince for years ran a small practice in Richmond, Virginia. But last year, the reservist was called to active duty and spent six months in Iraq. He never thought this would be his next assignment.
“I could have said, ‘No,’ ” he said before adding, “I don’t think I would have been doing honor to myself or honor to my calling.”
Source URL: http://www.cnn.com/2008/CRIME/04/23/ksm.attorney/index.html
Gitmo judge bars Pentagon official from trial
(CNN) — A military judge’s ruling that a Pentagon lawyer improperly pressured prosecutors could hurt efforts to try top al Qaeda suspects held at the U.S. prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, a defense lawyer said Monday.
Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann has been ordered to stay out of the prosecution of Osama bin Laden’s driver.
The ruling called allegations that Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, the legal adviser to the Office of Military Commissions, exerted improper influence on the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan “troubling” and ordered Hartmann to stay out of the prisoner’s prosecution.
Defense attorney Charles Swift said the ruling is likely to stall the pending case against Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s driver and bodyguard, and complicate the prosecutions of other al Qaeda figures before the military courts set up by the Bush administration.
“It would seem that they need to go back to Square 1 wherever the HVD [high-value detainee] charges are concerned or risk the fact that they may be so tainted from the start that they will never survive,” said Swift.
Friday’s ruling by Navy Capt. Keith Allred follows the testimony of Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor at Guantánamo Bay. Davis resigned in October, saying the prosecutions had become “deeply politicized,” and appeared as a defense witness for Hamdan at a hearing in late April.
The Pentagon had no comment Monday on the ruling.
Hartmann, an Air Force reservist, is the legal adviser to the Office of Military Commissions, the Pentagon agency set up to try suspected al Qaeda fighters at Guantánamo Bay. Among those prisoners are more than a dozen “high-value detainees” — including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh, accused of planning the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.
Swift, a former Navy lawyer, won a landmark 2006 Supreme Court ruling on Hamdan’s behalf that threw out an earlier Pentagon-devised system for trying suspected terrorists.
He said Hamdan’s case was largely prepared before Hartmann became the legal adviser to the military commissions and that the implications of last week’s ruling “are probably far greater in other cases than in Hamdan’s.”
“Mr. Hartmann has been at the center of putting together the charges on the HVDs, and his conduct is no different when it comes to that,” Swift said. “If anything, based on the testimony that’s been put out there, he stepped over the line even further than when Mr. Hamdan was involved.”
Hamdan has refused to take part in his trial, and his defense team has asked the Supreme Court to delay the proceedings until after it rules on the larger question of what legal rights non-citizen prisoners have.
In the 13-page order, Hartmann’s actions include efforts to push Davis to use evidence “considered tainted and unreliable, or perhaps obtained as the result of torture or coercion” and pushing Davis to bring cases he considered “sexy” over lower-ranking suspects. Hartman also complained about the slow pace of the trials, the order said.
Allred found that prosecutors complained that Hartman “nano-managed” their cases, and said the attention drawn to his performance jeopardized the appearance of fairness in the entire military justice process.
Davis, who is scheduled to retire from the Air Force in October, said Monday that Hartmann “had a hand in drafting the charges” against Mohammed. And he said his complaints about Hartmann’s interference may have scuttled a plea agreement last year in the Hamdan case.
“His job was to provide neutral, independent advice to the convening authority,” he said. “He was supposed to be neutral, and he basically suited up and played for the prosecution.”
Capt. Prescott Prince, the military attorney appointed to represent Mohammed, said the decision makes Hartmann’s role in other cases “snakebitten.”
Prince said he expects to meet with Mohammed this week at Guantánamo Bay, where the prisoner was transferred in September 2006 after three years in CIA custody. It will be his second meeting with Mohammed, who was captured in Pakistan in 2003.
CNN’s Mike Mount, Bill Mears and Carol Cratty contributed to this report.
Source URL: http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/americas/05/12/Guantánamo.adviser/index.html