Civil Liberties

Former Gitmo Prosecutor: "torture has no place as evidence in what purports to be an American military court of justice"

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Hey guys, maybe we could get a cover without the address sticker?

Morris Davis used to be the United States government's chief prosecutor for military commissions at Guantanamo Bay. He resigned in late 2007 to protest the admission of evidence obtained via torture. Over at Crimes of War, Davis writes an account of his turn from prosecutor to dissident that is worth reading regardless of where you stand on any of the relevant issues. Excerpt:

In the fall of 2005, […] I sat down for a lengthy discussion with a veteran member of the prosecution team, a Marine Corps officer with an extensive background in criminal prosecution. We discussed a case that caused him concern, one he said he was not comfortable prosecuting. After describing some of the specifics of the detainee's treatment at Guantanamo, which was documented in official records, the prosecutor said: "Sir, they fucked with him and they fucked with him until now he's as crazy as a shit-house rat." In an interview with Bob Woodward published in the Washington Post in January 2009, Susan Crawford, the Bush administration official who supervised the military commissions, explained why she refused to send the same case to trial when it reached her desk in the spring of 2008. "We tortured Qahtani," she said, "His treatment met the legal definition of torture." […]

As chief prosecutor for the military commissions, I personally approved the charges against some of the detainees now convicted of war crimes and I participated in discussions on potential charges against others like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. A phrase used repeatedly in detainee charges is "in violation of the law of war." As a career military attorney, prosecuting those who violated the law of war was a duty I readily accepted. For nearly two years, I was a vocal supporter of the detention facility at Guantanamo and the military commissions. In June 2007, I published an op-ed entitled "The Guantanamo I Know," where I defended the detention facility and the military commission process.

I instructed the prosecutors that we would not use information derived by waterboarding or any other technique that went too far, and for two years that policy was unchallenged. Then, in October 2007, I received a written order from Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England placing me under the command of Brigadier General Tom Hartmann and Defense Department General Counsel Jim Haynes. Hartmann disputed the policy I established arguing that "President Bush said we don't torture, so what makes you think you have the authority to say we do?" He believed the information I had excluded should be introduced as evidence in detainee trials. Haynes was the architect of the memo former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld signed authorizing enhanced interrogation techniques, the memo on which Rumsfeld scribbled, "I stand 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to four hours?" I was summoned to the Pentagon and given a copy of the order. I went back to my office and drafted my resignation. Information obtained by extreme coercion – what most call torture – has no place as evidence in what purports to be an American military court of justice. […]

Torture violates both domestic and international law, and like the basis for the charges against the detainees, torture is "in violation of the law of war." The law requires that allegations of torture be investigated and those who engaged in it be held to account. To ignore that binding legal obligation is indefensible and inexcusable, whether it is the government of Syria, Pakistan or the United States who is derelict in performing its duties.

Whole thing here; link via the Twitter feed of Human Rights Watch's Laura Pitter. Reason on torture here.