Thursday, April 10, 2008

A funny thing happened on the way to the tribunal

The show-trials the Bushies have been in a lather about getting 9/11 trials underway and timing for maximum electoral impact have been dealt another setback. Two months after the announcement was made that the show trials would be tied to the upcoming election tribunals would get underway, not a single detainee has seen a military defense attorney.
The delay in getting lawyers to those detainees, which largely grew out of a struggle within the Pentagon over legal resources, is indicative of the confounding obstacles facing this latest effort to expedite the military tribunals.

Since fall, when charges had been lodged against just three detainees, military officials have charged 12 more terrorism suspects. Yet there is a growing consensus among lawyers inside and outside the military that few of those cases are likely to actually come to trial before the end of the Bush administration.

“Speed is going to be very, very difficult to accomplish here,” said Stephen A. Saltzburg, a military law expert at George Washington University. “They may be overconfident that if they just push ahead, all the ducks will end up in a row. I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

The road to a trial is difficult in some cases partly because they involve potential death penalties and claims of torture by interrogators, issues that raise thorny legal questions that could take months or longer to sort out. But even comparatively simple cases without capital penalty issues are proceeding slowly.

In addition, just as the Pentagon is pushing to try cases in part to show the viability of the tribunal system, some civil liberties groups and defense lawyers are working to slow the pace, partly to keep the system from gaining legitimacy by eliciting testimony against terrorism suspects that could inflame Americans. They say they plan a dizzying array of challenges to try to prevent any significant number of what they call political trials.

They are particularly focused on the Sept. 11 case, which for more than six years has been expected to be the centerpiece of the Bush administration’s military commission system.

“The government can be assured that this will not be a quick show trial,” said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “Not if we can help it.”

The A.C.L.U. and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers announced a plan last week to provide experienced defense lawyers for some detainees.

The impasse over access to attorneys arises from a long-running dispute over legal resources and the allocation thereof by the Pentagon. Military prosecutors have access to the entire scope of the U.S. intelligence gathering apparatus, while military defenders are not so well resourced. Col. Steven David, the chief military defense lawyer for the prison at Guantánamo Bay complained in a recent interview that he has neither attorneys nor support staff in adequate numbers. even though prosecutors still greatly outnumber defense attorneys, and until a few defenders were added in recent days, they were outnumbered >2:1

But Colonel David has complaints that go beyond staffing. There is no precedent for dealing with detainees who make claims that they were tortured. Lacking precedents and clear rules, he said, “there are issues within issues within issues.”

Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann impatiently dismissed those concerns. “You have to get the train moving so you can get to a destination,” he said. “And the train hadn’t been moving.” He remains determined to move the ball forward. He waved off concerns, saying that trials in any system could be subject to delays, and added that he had told military prosecutors and court officials not to get distracted as problems cropped up.

A lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has represented one of the detainees, was more circumspect. J. Wells Dixon, speaking about the six men charged with capitol offenses in relation to the attacks of September 11, said that the cases are so complex that the defense teams will need months to prepare. “There is no possibility,” Mr. Dixon said, “that these cases are going to proceed to trial any time soon.”

Now, before some foam-flecked lunatic accuses me of being soft on terrorism, I am not. I have dealt with the looming specter of terrorism my entire life. I was an Air Force wife in the 80's for cryin' out loud! I am totally in favor of effectively curtailing terrorists by treating them like the thugs and criminals they are, and locking their asses up in prison. And retaining the moral high ground where Justice is concerned. Like we used to, back when we actually fought terrorism, before Commander Codpiece went off half-cocked and started making new terrorists instead of catching the existing ones - like bin Laden, who is still at large, almost six years after the attacks of September 11.


Yeah, I'm probably going to shock some people when I say this, but this is the direct result of a failed strategy. This is what happens when you don't kill terrorists on the battlefield where you engage them. I'm not saying don't give them any quarter. I'm saying that the policy of "paying bounties" for warm bodies that were brought to the Americans in Afghanistan has burned us in the ass--a lot of those people had to be released.

CUT and PASTE this link into your browser--it's a DoD .pdf file that Blogger wants to eat--

Notice anything? A hell of a lot of these guys come from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, based on what they told their captors. How accurate is any of this? Who knows? But every one of these has a name. We already know we've made huge mistakes and had to let completely innocent people go--so much for transparency. I challenge you to look at the names on that report. If they're terrorists guilty of crimes, try them and carry out sentence. If they're not, let them go.

It kind of changes things when you can see their names, though, doesn't it?

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