Gitmo Prosecutor: Why I Resigned


Until two months ago, Morris Davis was the chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay. He resigned, "because I felt that the system had become deeply politicized," and writes about it in today's L.A. Times:

In my view—and I think most lawyers would agree—it is absolutely critical to the legitimacy of the military commissions that they be conducted in an atmosphere of honesty and impartiality. Yet the political appointee known as the "convening authority"—a title with no counterpart in civilian courts—was not living up to that obligation.

In a nutshell, the convening authority is supposed to be objective—not predisposed for the prosecution or defense—and gets to make important decisions at various stages in the process. The convening authority decides which charges filed by the prosecution go to trial and which are dismissed, chooses who serves on the jury, decides whether to approve requests for experts and reassesses findings of guilt and sentences, among other things.

Earlier this year, Susan Crawford was appointed by the secretary of Defense to replace Maj. Gen. John Altenburg as the convening authority. Altenburg's staff had kept its distance from the prosecution to preserve its impartiality. Crawford, on the other hand, had her staff assessing evidence before the filing of charges, directing the prosecution's pretrial preparation of cases (which began while I was on medical leave), drafting charges against those who were accused and assigning prosecutors to cases, among other things.

Davis resigned "a few hours after" learning that the Defense Department had installed William J. Haynes, a backer of "the aggressive interrogation techniques some call torture."

I had instructed the prosecutors in September 2005 that we would not offer any evidence derived by waterboarding, one of the aggressive interrogation techniques the administration has sanctioned. Haynes and I have different perspectives and support different agendas, and the decision to give him command over the chief prosecutor's office, in my view, cast a shadow over the integrity of military commissions.

Whole thing here.