Monday, July 13, 2009

Military Commissions -- "Broken Beyond Repair" (and other related stories)

July 9, 2009
Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld of the US Reserves, a former prosecutor in the Military Commissions at the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Subcommittee of the House Committee on the Judiciary hearing on “Legal Issues Surrounding the Military Commissions System
I am here today to offer a single, straightforward message: the military commission system is broken beyond repair. Even good faith efforts at revision, such as legislation recently passed by the Senate Armed Services Committee, leave in place provisions that are illegal and unconstitutional, undermine defendants’ basic fair trial rights, create unacceptable risks of wrongful prosecution, place our men and women in uniform at risk of unfair prosecution by other nations abroad, harm the reputation of the United States, invite time consuming litigation before federal courts, and, most importantly, undermine the fundamental values of justice and liberty upon which this great country was founded....

The military commissions cannot be fixed, because their very creation — and the only reason to prefer military commissions over federal criminal courts for the Guantánamo detainees — can now be clearly seen as an artifice, a contrivance, to try to obtain prosecutions based on evidence that would not be admissible in any civilian or military prosecution anywhere in our nation.
The quote is from Andy Worthington's excellent recent posting, "Former Insider Shatters Credibility of Military Commissions". Worthington covered earlier testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee here.
Fortunately, Retired Rear Admiral John D. Hutson, who served as a Judge Advocate in the US Navy from 1973 to 2000, and was the Navy’s Judge Advocate General from 1997 to 2000, was on hand to cut through the administration’s fog, to put forward a stout defense of the abilities of the federal courts, and to deliver a withering dismissal of proposals to revive the Military Commissions (PDF).

Hutson said that although he was an “early and ardent supporter of military commissions,” the process created by the Bush administration “did not live up to the traditions” of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (the military’s own judicial system), and had become a “significant distraction for the military,” because “[p]reserving and ensuring justice in the United States is the primary mission of the Department of Justice, not the Department of Defense.”
But as a commenter on Worthington's Huffington Post article (reproduced by Andy here) noted, the SASC hearing came after language for the new military commissions law was already written.
CitizenLegislatorDC wrote:

Superb reporting, Andy.

You are absolutely right that floor debate on NEW Obama-blessed military commissions language — ALREADY PASSED by Carl Levin’s Armed Services Committee — is “imminent” in the Senate.

From Wednesday, July 8th:

“Mr. REID. I ask unanimous consent that on Monday, July 13, after the pledge, prayer, and any leader remarks, the Senate proceed to the consideration of Calendar No. 89, S. 1390, the Department of Defense Authorization bill.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.”

And from Thursday, July 9th:

“Mr. REID. …[Next] Monday, we will be in at 11 a.m. Senators Levin and McCain will begin managing the Defense Authorization bill… There are a lot of very big, important amendments on that bill.”

Perhaps Huffington Post Washington reporters (Hi, Dan Froomkin) could ask some questions:

1. WHO WROTE the complex new military commissions language? Levin’s Armed Services committee staffers, or the White House?

2. WHY was the public hearing on the new language held AFTER the committee had already adopted the language?

3. WHO will control the conference committee / negotiations merging the Senate (if its MC language remains) and House (H.R. 2647) defense bills? The President via Emanuel? Will those negotiations be secret, or publicly available?

4. WHY DID NO SENATOR OBJECT to consideration of this 2009 version of the 2006 Military Commissions Act?? Especially Pat Leahy, Chris Dodd, or Russ Feingold — who expressed disgust about the 2006 bill they ALL refused to filibuster, just before the Democrats regained Congress.
All of this comes in context recent scary statements also made at the SASC hearing (emphasis added):
The Obama administration said Tuesday it could continue to imprison non-U.S. citizens indefinitely even if they have been acquitted of terrorism charges by a U.S. military commission.

Jeh Johnson, the Defense Department's chief lawyer, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that releasing a detainee who has been tried and found not guilty was a policy decision that officials would make based on their estimate of whether the prisoner posed a future threat.
Recent statements by Obama administration officials or their surrogates, and by Obama himself, indicate that a turn for more real transparency and accountability may be in the offing. The most promising of such turnarounds comes from Obama himself, on the investigation of the Dasht-e-Leili massacre. A Newsweek article, and a piece by Scott Horton at the Daily Beast, maintain that Attorney General Holder is leaning towards prosecutions over torture. Already there are analysts pouring over what Holder might choose to investigate.

Besides the Obama statement, which represents a turnaround for official U.S. government policy on a single investigation, we are getting very mixed signals from the Obama administration. The next period will be one of accelerated struggle over the fight for accountability and justice, and against torture and a war-inclined military. Unreported here by me is also a struggle over economic justice, as the country sinks ever deeper into economic depression. At some point, these two struggles must link up, and then major change in this country will be in the offing.


Max said...

Hi Valtin,
Is there a link directly to Vandeveld's testimony?

History Commons

Valtin said...

I think this is what you're looking for:

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