Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld is at least the sixth JAG officer prosecuting cases in Guantanamo Bay to resign or request a transfer in protest of how the Pentagon is administering the tribunals. His letter of resignation was revealed late last month during proceedings in the case against accused enemy combatant Mohammed Jawad.
Vandeveld quit because he was alarmed at what he says were gross due process violations in the Jawad case. From his letter:
My ethical qualms about continuing to serve as a prosecutor relate primarily to the procedures for affording defense counsel discovery. I am highly concerned, to the point that I believe I can no longer serve as a prosecutor at the Commissions, about the slipshod, uncertain "procedure" for affording defense counsel discovery. One would have thought that after six years since the Commissions had their fitful start, that a functioning law office would have been set up and procedures and policies not only put into effect, but refined.
Instead, what I found, and what I still find, is that discovery in even the simplest of cases is incomplete or unreliable. To take the Jawad case as only one example—a case where no intelligence agency had any significant involvement—I discovered just yesterday that something as basic as agents' interrogation notes had been entered into a database, to which I do not have personal access, on or about 11 August 2008. These and other examples too legion to list, are not only appalling, they deprive the accused of basic due process and subject the well-intentioned prosecutor to claims of ethical misconduct…
Vandeveld goes on to say that past prosecutors in Gitmo cases who have expressed similar concerns about due process experienced retaliation from higher-ups at the Pentagon. He says he was put in a position where sharing possibly exculpatory evidence—which prosecutors are required to do in the U.S. criminal justice system—would have subjected him to career-damaging accusations that he was being overly cooperative with Guantanamo defense attorneys. The L.A. Times reports that the officer overseeing the tribunals at the time of Vandeveld's resignation suggested he get a psychiatric evaluation.
In addition to the six prosecutors, Col. Stephen Abraham—tapped by the Bush administration to run the Guantanamo hearings—also resigned last summer, citing what he said was a deeply flawed system designed more to give the veneer of justice to predetermined convictions than to administer a fair hearing of the evidence.