For Immediate Release
February 19, 2008
The recent news reports that our government has finally charged the “6 Guantánamo Detainees” for crimes connected to the 9/11 terrorist attacks has focused on the fact that our government is calling for the death penalty. While we all agree that the perpetrators of 9/11 should be brought to justice, the death penalty is not the issue.
The real issue is that it must first be proven that these six detainees are indeed the guilty parties.
Although we attempted to have this kind of information brought to light through the work of the 9/11 Independent Commission, much of their work is now suspect because, by their own admission, they wrote the 9/11 story based on third hand information. The Commission itself was never allowed to interview the detainees; instead they had to use notes taken by the CIA interrogators of those interviews. In their document requests, the commissioners failed to use the standard language that defines “documents” as being computer discs, “videos”, etc. As such, the CIA did not hand over the videotaped interrogation interviews of the detainees, contending recently, that the Commission never asked specifically for “videos”. It has since been reported that the CIA, against orders, destroyed these tapes and thus this evidence.
As unconscionable as the destruction of these videotapes was, what has made it even more egregious, is that the tapes would have, according to the CIA, revealed that some of the detainees were subjected to harsh, enhanced interrogation techniques, including water boarding. This was done, even though it is widely agreed by military experts that confessions or evidence garnered through extreme measures, such as torture, are unreliable. Therefore, even if the evidence in these tapes contained detainee confessions to some aspects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, this evidence would now be considered tainted.
Further complicating these matters, the Administration has decided to try these men in Military Tribunals. Bringing these six men to trial with a system that is secretive in nature and lacking in due process, which uses tainted evidence, is a dangerous endeavor. All Americans, and indeed the entire international community, must have the opportunity to witness for themselves the body of evidence that ties these individuals to the 9/11 terrorists’ plot. Otherwise the credibility of any verdict will lack legitimacy. Moreover, unless these trials are above reproach, any convictions — death penalty or otherwise — will bring the wrath of the international community, damaging what is left of America’s standing in the world. Considering that we continue to rely heavily on cooperation from other nations to provide us with intelligence information on would be terrorists, this course of action can only be detrimental to these crucial relationships, thereby jeopardizing our national security.
These trials, when they finally take place, will be scrutinized around the globe. Unless the victims’ families, the American public and the entire world can be convinced that we are trying and convicting the people who are truly responsible for the 9/11 crimes, these trials will be seen as a miserable failure, dimming our prospects of improved international relationships, and making us more vulnerable to terrorist attacks in the future. In our pursuit of justice with regard to the six Guantánamo detainees, we implore you, let us not do more harm than good.
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Lorie Van Auken