The Dark Heart of the Guantánamo Trials


Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files, looks at recent disturbing developments in the Military Commission trial system at Guantánamo, and traces a chain of command that runs from the Commissions’ supposedly impartial “Convening Authority” all the way to the Office of the Vice President.

A prosecutor resigns

On September 24, Col. Lawrence Morris, the chief prosecutor of Guantánamo’s Military Commission trial system, announced that Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, the prosecutor in the case of Mohamed Jawad (an Afghan — and a teenager at the time of his capture — who is accused of throwing a grenade at a jeep containing two US soldiers and an Afghan translator), had asked to quit his assignment before his one-year contract expired.

Although Col. Morris attempted to explain that Lt. Col. Vandeveld was leaving “for personal reasons,” the real reasons were spelled out in a statement issued by Vandeveld (PDF), in which he expressed his frustration and disappointment that “potentially exculpatory evidence” had “not been provided” to Jawad’s defense team:

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 … 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 … 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 also stated, “My view of the case has evolved over time,” and proceeded to explain how he had come to suspect that Jawad, who has always denied throwing the grenade, was duped into joining a militant group, and was drugged before the attack. Michael Berrigan, the Commissions’ deputy chief defense counsel, added that prosecutors also knew that the Afghan Interior Ministry said that two other men had confessed to the same crime, although Vandeveld did not mention this in his statement.

Vandeveld added, “Based on my view of the case, I have advocated a pre-trial agreement under which Mr. Jawad would serve some relatively brief additional period in custody while he receives rehabilitation services and skills that will allow him to reintegrate into either Afghan or Pakistani society.” This, however, was turned down by his commanding officers. He continued: “One of my motivations in seeking a reasonable resolution of the case is that, as a juvenile at the time of capture, Jawad should have been segregated from the adult detainees, and some serious attempt made to rehabilitate him. I am bothered by the fact that this was not done.”

On October 26, as Jawad’s defense lawyer, Maj. David Frakt, sought to have the case dismissed due to “gross government misconduct,” Lt. Col. Vandeveld testified for the defense by video link from Washington D.C., explaining, as the Associated Press described it, that “the embattled military tribunal system may not be capable of delivering justice for Jawad or the victims.” “They are not served by having someone who may be innocent be convicted of the crime,” Vandeveld said, reiterating that, even after six years, “it is impossible for anyone in good conscience to stand up and say he or she is provided all the discovery in a case.”

Explaining more of his reasons for quitting his job, Vandeveld told the court that he “reached a turning point” when he chanced upon “key evidence among material scattered throughout the prosecutors’ office.” In another case file, he said he “saw for the first time a statement Jawad made to a military investigator probing prisoner abuse in Afghanistan,” and described it as “an episode that helped convert him from a ‘true believer to someone who felt truly deceived.’” He added that he had “even developed sympathy” for Jawad. “My views changed,” he said. “I am a father, and it’s not an exercise in self-pity to ask oneself how you would feel if your own son was treated in this fashion.”

Lt. Col. Vandeveld’s departure — and his reasons for leaving — are another serious blow to the credibility of the Military Commissions, which were established by Vice President Dick Cheney and his close advisers in November 2001. In June 2006, they were ruled illegal by the US Supreme Court, and although they were revived by Congress later that year in the much-criticized Military Commissions Act, they have never escaped accusations that they are a parody of justice, designed to secure convictions at all costs. Even so, Lt. Col. Vandeveld’s profound criticisms of a system that imprisons juveniles instead of rehabilitating them, and that suppresses evidence relevant to the defense, is just part of a much darker narrative that has been unfolding for the last 18 months.

The role of Brig. Gen. Hartmann

Brig. Gen. Thomas HartmannFrom this perspective, an even more significant event was the Pentagon’s announcement, on September 19, that Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann had been removed from his post as legal adviser to the Convening Authority overseeing the Commission process, which, as the Washington Post recently explained, is “a Pentagon office that is required to exercise a neutral role in the commissions, overseeing but not dictating the work of prosecutors and allocating resources to both the prosecution and defense.”

Hartmann, a reservist whose civilian job is chief counsel to the Connecticut-based Mxenergy Holdings Inc., became the legal adviser to the Convening Authority in July 2007, and was also required to “exercise a neutral role.” According to the rules set up for the Commissions, he was “supposed to provide impartial advice” to the Convening Authority (retired judge Susan Crawford), and was also supposed to “make an independent and informed appraisal of the charges and evidence,” to help Crawford “decide whether charges proposed by the prosecutors are sufficient to go to trial.”

However, complaints arose almost as soon as Hartmann was appointed. Just two months after he took the job, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Col. Morris Davis, the Commissions’ chief prosecutor, had filed a formal complaint alleging that he had “overstepped his mandate by interfering directly in cases.” In a letter, Davis suggested that both he and Hartmann should resign “for the good of the process,” adding, “If he believes in military commissions as strongly as I do, then let’s do the right thing and both of us walk away before we do more harm.”

Officials who spoke to the Journal’s Jess Bravin made it clear that Col. Davis was not alone in his complaints. A lawyer close to the process explained that, although Hartmann had complained that, after four years, the prosecution was “still unready to try cases,” and was frustrated with their “can’t do” approach, some of the prosecutors regarded him as “‘micromanaging’ cases he doesn’t fully understand.”

Brig. Gen. Hartmann escaped unscathed from Col. Davis’ accusations — and in fact it was Davis, alone, who resigned on October 4 — and he also escaped censure the following month, when, during a pre-trial hearing for Omar Khadr (the Canadian who was just 15 years old when he was captured in July 2002), Khadr’s defense team announced that they had just been informed of the existence of an eyewitness to the main crime for which Omar was being charged — the death of a US soldier in a grenade attack — whose testimony could exonerate their client. This was extraordinary enough, in and of itself, but what made the story particularly shocking was prosecutor Jeff Groharing’s admission that, as the Los Angeles Times described it, “he had been prohibited from talking about the case” by Brig. Gen. Hartmann.

Hartmann is barred from three trials

Hartmann’s luck finally ran out in May, when, after Col. Davis reprised his complaints in pre-trial hearings for Salim Hamdan (a driver for Osama bin Laden whose trial took place this summer), the judge in Hamdan’s case, Capt. Keith Allred, disqualified him from playing any role in Hamdan’s trial, ruling that he was “too closely allied with the prosecution,” and that “national attention focused on this dispute has seriously called into question the legal adviser’s ability to continue to perform his duties in a neutral and objective manner.” Allred added, “Telling the chief prosecutor (and other prosecutors) that certain types of cases would be tried and that others would not be tried, because of political factors such as whether they would capture the imagination of the American people, be sexy, or involve blood on the hands of the accused, suggests that factors other than those pertaining to the merits of the case were at play.”

In August, Hartmann was excluded from Mohamed Jawad’s trial for the same reasons. Jawad’s lawyer, Maj. David Frakt, told the judge, Col. Stephen Henley, that Hartmann “usurped the role of a prosecutor — rather than acting dispassionately — and pushed to get Jawad charged because the case involved battlefield bloodshed.” Frakt also pointed out that Hartmann had “failed to turn over defense documents” to Susan Crawford, even though these documents “outlined mitigating circumstances that might have altered her decision to endorse the charges.” He also secured testimony from an unlikely ally, Brig. Gen. Zanetti, the deputy commander of Guantánamo’s Joint Task Force, who declared that Hartmann’s demeanor was “abusive, bullying and unprofessional … pretty much across the board,” and described his approach to the Commissions as, “Spray and pray. Charge everybody. Let’s go. Speed, speed, speed.”

Three weeks ago, Hartman was barred for a third time, this time from any post-trial review in Omar Khadr’s case. The judge, Col. Patrick Parrish, had refused a request from Khadr’s lawyers to disqualify Hartmann from involvement in Khadr’s trial, but he barred Hartmann from reviewing it, in the case of a conviction, for the same reasons as those described above.

To add to the criticism, Lt. Col. Vandeveld also tore into Hartmann as he announced his departure from the Commissions. The Los Angeles Times spoke to a Pentagon official, who explained that “Vandeveld had defended Hartmann against the undue-influence allegations in the Jawad case in recent weeks but lost,” and Hartmann “had retaliated against him, causing the prosecutor emotional distress and prompting him to quit and go public with his concerns.”

News of Brig. Gen. Hartmann’s departure was telegraphed three weeks ago, in the wake of the Khadr ruling, when Charles “Cully” Stimson, a former deputy assistant secretary for detainee affairs, stepped forward to suggest that, under a “three strikes and you’re out” philosophy, Hartmann should resign. Stimson explained that he was particularly concerned about challenges and appeals frustrating the forthcoming trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-conspirators in the 9/11 attacks, which Hartmann “helped shepherd.”

Hartmann’s extraordinary promotion

Instead of losing his job, however, Brig. Gen. Hartmann was actually promoted to a new post, as Director of Operations, Planning and Development for the Commissions, responsible, as the Associated Press put it, for “such activities as the hiring of dozens of lawyers and paralegals and ensuring there are adequate resources for the massive legal undertaking.” His deputy, retired Army Col. Michael Chapman, took over as legal adviser.

In the Miami Herald, Carol Rosenberg shrewdly realized that the Pentagon had hoped to bury the news of Hartmann’s reassignment. Explaining that the announcement “ended weeks of speculation on the fate of Hartmann with little fanfare,” she noted that it was issued “on Friday afternoon, a time considered in Washington circles to be when the Defense Department disposes of uncomfortable business.” This was certainly true, but it soon became clear that what was particularly “uncomfortable” about the “business” was not Hartmann’s removal as legal adviser, but the significance of his effective promotion to a new job.

Although the Associated Press reported that the new job “takes Hartmann away from direct supervision of the prosecution,” other observers were not convinced. The Washington Post reported that Human Rights Watch had stated that “instead of trying to clean up house, the Pentagon has now moved a man accused of bullying prosecutors to bring cases to trial and dismissing concerns about evidence being tainted by torture into a position coordinating all matters relating to the commissions.”

Col. Morris DavisIn addition, Col. Davis compared the reassignment to that of Russia’s former Premier and his newly promoted protégé, saying, “Elevating his deputy and leaving him in the process, I’m afraid, will be like the Vladimir Putin-Dmitry Medvedev relationship where there’s some real doubt over who pulls the strings.” Speaking to the AP, Davis was even blunter, comparing Hartmann to a “cancer” that had infected the entire Commission process. “The only way to ensure cancer can do no harm,” he said, “is to get it out of the body.”

Noticeably, Hartmann himself confirmed that his reassignment was anything but a punishment. “I feel like it’s an elevation, a promotion, because it recognizes … the exponential growth of the commissions,” the AP reported him as saying, and in the Washington Post he claimed that, although “the recent court rulings forced him and others at the Pentagon to think about his role,” the reason for his new assignment was that “he and his superiors thought that the ‘best way to run the system was to take this more senior leadership position.”

Hartmann continued crowing in comments to the Miami Herald. Likening his new job to that of a “chief executive officer at a 250-staff corporate headquarters,” and adding that he “had no fixed budget,” he declared that his biggest challenge was “to keep the process moving, really intensely.” He added, “Everybody needs to start seeing more trials. I want those courtrooms to be as filled up as they can possibly be — six days a week.”

While this is nothing short of despicable, given the condemnation of Hartmann’s pro-prosecution bias by three government-appointed judges, what no one has yet done in the last two weeks is to look behind the scenes to see what Hartmann’s reassignment reveals about the whole command structure of the Military Commissions. And when this is looked at in detail, Hartmann appears, shockingly, to be little more than a puppet (albeit a willing and hard-working one), whose reassignment is a reward to prevent him from being a sacrifice, which was bestowed upon him by his masters — in the Pentagon, and in the Office of the Vice President –- who have no interest in establishing a fair or just process at Guantánamo.

Who’s pulling the strings?

To understand this story we need to look back, beyond Hartmann’s appointment, to February 2007, when Susan Crawford was appointed as the Commissions’ Convening Authority. In a revelatory article for Harper’s Magazine this February, Scott Horton examined the source of the “cancer” referred to by Col. Davis, and traced it back to a plea bargain struck, for political reasons, in the first trial by Military Commission to go ahead: that of the Australian David Hicks, who admitted to providing material support for terrorism in March 2007, in exchange for a nine-month sentence to be served back in Australia.

Vice President Dick CheneyWhat happened, it was later revealed, was that Australian Premier John Howard, who was seeking re-election, had been struggling in the polls, partly because the previously ignored plight of Hicks had become a political hot potato. Anxious to help one of his few stout allies in the “War on Terror,” Dick Cheney paid Howard a quick visit, and on returning home appointed a new Convening Authority for the Military Commissions, retired judge Susan J. Crawford, who, as Horton noted, was “a Cheney protégée,” and was, moreover, “particularly close to Cheney’s chief of staff David Addington,” the prime architect not only of the Commissions, but also of the majority of the administration’s post-9/11 flight from the Geneva Conventions and the UN Convention Against Torture.

With Crawford in place — and assistance from William J. Haynes II, the Pentagon’s General Counsel, who was “known for his tight connections with the Vice President’s Office” — a plea bargain was negotiated with Hicks’ lawyers, and the sidelining of Col. Davis began in earnest.

As Hicks’ trial got underway, Col. Davis “confidently delivered a searing opening promising to make Hicks out as a bloodthirsty figure who had betrayed his homeland and turned to a path of ‘Islamic’ violence,” as Scott Horton described it. He was both humiliated and dismayed when the plea bargain was revealed, as neither he, nor any of the other prosecutors, had been informed of the deal cut by Cheney, Addington, Crawford and Haynes.

This, of course, explains why, although Col. Davis maintained a dignified silence at the time, his frayed patience began to unravel in July, when Brig. Gen. Hartman assumed his new role as Susan Crawford’s legal adviser. Hartmann took charge of the prosecution office while Davis was away, recovering from surgery, and he proceeded to take advantage of Davis’ absence to shake things up as he — and his masters — saw fit.

The most significant date, however, is October 3, the day before Col. Davis’ resignation, as it was then, as Scott Horton described it, that Haynes “crafted and secured Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England’s signature on two documents,” which sealed a significant change in the command structure of the Commissions. The first established that Hartmann would report to Paul Ney, the Defense Department’s Deputy General Counsel (Legal Counsel), who in turn reported to Haynes, and the second placed Col. Davis in the chain of command under Hartmann. This second memorandum, as Horton explained, “was particularly necessary as an after-the-fact adjustment to cover Haynes’s manipulation of the Hicks case, establishing a chain-of-command justification for his intervention to direct the plea bargain resolution of the case.”

The former chief prosecutor turns

This, then, was the specific reason why, in a blistering op-ed in the Los Angeles Times two months after his resignation, Col. Davis stated, “I was the chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, until Oct. 4, the day I concluded that full, fair and open trials were not possible under the current system. I resigned on that day because I felt that the system had become deeply politicized and that I could no longer do my job effectively or responsibly.”

Although Col. Davis was critical of Brig. Gen. Hartmann, he explained that the particular trigger for his decision was the memo described above, informing him that he had been placed in a chain of command under Haynes. Stating that he resigned “a few hours after” being informed of this, he mentioned that “Haynes was a controversial nominee for a lifetime appointment to the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, but his nomination died in January 2007, in part because of his role in authorizing the use of the aggressive interrogation techniques some call torture.” He added, “I had instructed the prosecutors in September 2005 [shortly after taking the job] that we would not offer any evidence derived by waterboarding, one of the aggressive interrogation techniques the administration has sanctioned.”

William J. Haynes IIHaynes, of course, was not only involved in the approval of “enhanced interrogation techniques” for use at Guantánamo; he also helped develop the concept of holding prisoners as “enemy combatants” without charge or trial, and without the protections of the Geneva Conventions, and played a part in the process that led to holding an American citizen, Jose Padilla, as an “enemy combatant” on the US mainland.

Col. Davis was also critical of the role played not only by Hartmann and Haynes, but also by Susan Crawford, and he was dismayed by what he described as Hartmann and Crawford’s desire to conduct trials “behind closed doors.” “Transparency is critical,” he wrote, adding that it was “absolutely critical to the legitimacy of the military commissions that they be conducted in an atmosphere of honesty and impartiality,” and pointing out that “even the most perfect trial in history will be viewed with scepticism if it is conducted behind closed doors.”

Davis also directed a specific attack at Susan Crawford, explaining that “the political appointee known as the ‘convening authority’ — a title with no counterpart in civilian courts — was not living up to that obligation.” As he described it, Crawford, unlike her predecessor Maj. Gen. John Altenburg, whose staff had “kept its distance from the prosecution to preserve its impartiality,” had overstepped her administrative role, and “had her staff assessing evidence before the filing of charges, directing the prosecution’s pre-trial preparation of cases (which began while I was on medical leave), drafting charges against those who were accused and assigning prosecutors to cases.” He continued: “Intermingling convening authority and prosecutor roles perpetuates the perception of a rigged process stacked against the accused.”

In this first, considered outburst, Col. Davis laid out, with admirable clarity, a contaminated chain of command — indifferent to the use of torture by US forces, dedicated to using the poisoned fruit of that torture in trials at Guantánamo, and committed, essentially, to conducting “a rigged process stacked against the accused” — that led from Hartmann to Crawford and Haynes, and from there to Dick Cheney and David Addington.

“No acquittals”

And if further proof were needed that Haynes was the link connecting the supposedly impartial Convening Authority and her legal adviser from the ferociously biased Vice President and his chief of staff, this came in February this year, when Col. Davis told Ross Tuttle of the Nation about a conversation he had with Haynes in August 2005.

“[Haynes] said these trials will be the Nuremberg of our time,” recalled Davis, referring to the Nazi tribunals in 1945, considered the model of procedural rights in the prosecution of war crimes. In response, Davis said he noted that at Nuremberg there had been some acquittals, which had lent great credibility to the proceedings.

“I said to him that if we come up short and there are some acquittals in our cases, it will at least validate the process,” Davis continued. “At which point, [Haynes’s] eyes got wide and he said, ‘Wait a minute, we can’t have acquittals. If we’ve been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can’t have acquittals. We’ve got to have convictions.’”

Although Haynes announced his sudden retirement shortly after his conversation with Col. Davis was revealed, his place as the intermediary between the Office of Military Commissions and the Vice President’s Office has been seamlessly filled by the Pentagon’s Acting General Counsel, Daniel Dell’Orto.

Daniel Dell'OrtoA “career official at the Pentagon,” as Philippe Sands described him in Vanity Fair, Dell’Orto had accompanied Haynes and then-White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales when they presented the media with a carefully calibrated justification of the administration’s actions in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal in June 2004, and in July 2006, after the Supreme Court had struck down the Commissions’ first incarnation as illegal (in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld), he told the Senate Committee on the Judiciary that the Commissions were “an indispensable tool for the dispensation of justice in the chaotic and irregular circumstances of armed conflict.” Ignoring the fact that prisoners seized in wartime should be granted the protections of the Geneva Conventions, he also claimed, “It would greatly impede intelligence collection essential to the war effort to tell detainees before interrogation that they are entitled to legal counsel, that they need not answer questions, and that their answers may be used against them in a criminal trial.”

The dark heart

David AddingtonWhat I find particularly fascinating, however, is the way in which Susan Crawford has, to date, been shielded from allegations of impropriety by the activities of Brig. Gen. Hartmann. I’m grateful to Scott Horton not only for demolishing notions of Crawford’s independence by pointing out her close ties with Dick Cheney and David Addington (left), but also for including a specific anecdote that demonstrates the strength of her relationship with the Vice President’s chief of staff. “At an event held last year to mark Crawford’s retirement as a military appeals judge,” Horton wrote, “she went out of her way to note the presence of and thank just one person, her friend David Addington.”

In addition, one reporter, William Glaberson, raised pertinent questions about Crawford’s role after Salim Hamdan’s trial this summer. “There were unknowns,” Glaberson wrote in the New York Times. “A Pentagon official, Susan J. Crawford, has broad power over the entire tribunal process, including naming the military officers eligible to hear the case. Her title, convening authority, has no civilian equivalent. Her decisions to grant or deny financing for items like the defense’s expert witness fees or defense lawyers’ transportation were not explained during the trial. She has never granted an interview to a reporter.”

Crawford’s mentor, David Addington, never grants interviews either, but Brig. Gen. Hartmann’s cynical promotion, and Lt. Col. Vandeveld’s resignation, will hopefully bring the crucial role in the Commission process that is played by Susan Crawford, David Addington and Dick Cheney into sharper relief. This is of critical importance, as the deliberate suppression of evidence that is essential to the defense appears to be endemic.

In Mohamed Jawad’s case, this has been highlighted twice — first in August, when Col. Henley not only excluded Hartmann from involvement in Jawad’s case, but also ordered “potentially exculpatory information” to be sent to Susan Crawford, and last Wednesday by Lt. Col. Vandeveld, who, as the Los Angeles Times reported, “said military prosecutors routinely withhold exculpatory evidence from the defense in terrorism cases.”

In August, Henley refused to order the charges against Jawad to be dropped entirely, and, instead, made a request for Crawford to review the charges, indicating that it was up to her to decide whether to “drop or reduce them,” but I believe that this analysis of the Commission’s chain of command, and the exposure of Crawford’s spectral impartiality, casts serious doubt on the trust that Henley placed in Crawford, and indicates that, seven weeks after Henley made his ruling, the Convening Authority either has not received the exculpatory information, or has chosen to ignore it.

We end, therefore, where we began, with Lt. Col. Vandeveld, and his courageous refusal to play out his role in a rigged and one-sided process that would imprison a young Afghan for life by suppressing inconvenient evidence — such as the fact that he may not have actually been responsible for the alleged crime of which he is accused. What happens next is unknown, but it’s certain that lawyers for other prisoners facing trial by Military Commission — Omar Khadr, for example, and British resident Binyam Mohamed, whose lawyers recently took his case to the British High Court in an attempt to secure access to exculpatory evidence — will be doing their damnedest to ensure that they pursue those responsible for rigging the system all the way up the chain of command.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

As published on AlterNet, and CounterPunch . An edited version was published on the Huffington Post.

See also the follow-up article, New Evidence of Systemic Bias in Guantánamo Trials. See the following for a sequence of articles dealing with the stumbling progress of the Military Commissions: The reviled Military Commissions collapse (June 2007), A bad week at Guantánamo (Commissions revived, September 2007), The curse of the Military Commissions strikes the prosecutors (September 2007), A good week at Guantánamo (chief prosecutor resigns, October 2007), The story of Mohamed Jawad (October 2007), The story of Omar Khadr (November 2007), Guantánamo trials: where are the terrorists? (February 2008), Six in Guantánamo charged with 9/11 attacks: why now, and what about the torture? (February 2008), Guantánamo’s shambolic trials (ex-prosecutor turns, February 2008), Torture allegations dog Guantánamo trials (March 2008), African embassy bombing suspect charged (March 2008), The US military’s shameless propaganda over 9/11 trials (April 2008), Betrayals, backsliding and boycotts (May 2008), Fact Sheet: The 16 prisoners charged (May 2008), Four more charged, including Binyam Mohamed (June 2008), Afghan fantasist to face trial (June 2008), 9/11 trial defendants cry torture (June 2008), USS Cole bombing suspect charged (July 2008), Folly and injustice (Salim Hamdan’s trial approved, July 2008), A critical overview of Salim Hamdan’s Guantánamo trial and the dubious verdict (August 2008), Salim Hamdan’s sentence signals the end of Guantánamo (August 2008), High Court rules against UK and US in case of Binyam Mohamed (August 2008), Controversy still plagues Guantánamo’s Military Commissions (September 2008), Another Insignificant Afghan Charged (September 2008), Seized at 15, Omar Khadr Turns 22 in Guantánamo (September 2008), Is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Running the 9/11 Trials? (September 2008), Meltdown at the Guantánamo Trials (five trials dropped, October 2008), The collapse of Omar Khadr’s Guantánamo trial (October 2008), Corruption at Guantánamo (legal adviser faces military investigations, October 2008), An empty trial at Guantánamo (Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, October 2008), Life sentence for al-Qaeda propagandist fails to justify Guantánamo trials (al-Bahlul, November 2008), Guilt by Torture: Binyam Mohamed’s Transatlantic Quest for Justice (November 2008), 20 Reasons To Shut Down The Guantánamo Trials (profiles of all the prisoners charged, November 2008), How Guantánamo Can Be Closed: Advice for Barack Obama (November 2008), More Dubious Charges in the Guantánamo Trials (two Kuwaitis, November 2008), The End of Guantánamo (Salim Hamdan repatriated, November 2008), Torture, Preventive Detention and the Terror Trials at Guantánamo (December 2008), Is the 9/11 trial confession an al-Qaeda coup? (December 2008), The Dying Days of the Guantánamo Trials (January 2009), Former Guantánamo Prosecutor Condemns Chaotic Trials (Lt. Col. Vandeveld on Mohamed Jawad, January 2009), Torture taints the case of Mohamed Jawad (January 2009), Bush Era Ends with Guantánamo Trial Chief’s Torture Confession (Susan Crawford on Mohammed al-Qahtani, January 2009), Chaos and Lies: Why Obama Was Right to Halt The Guantánamo Trials (January 2009), Binyam Mohamed’s Plea Bargain: Trading Torture For Freedom (March 2009).

And for a sequence of articles dealing with the Obama administration’s response to the Military Commissions, see: Don’t Forget Guantánamo (February 2009), Who’s Running Guantánamo? (February 2009), The Talking Dog interviews Darrel Vandeveld, former Guantánamo prosecutor (February 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough (May 2009), Obama Returns To Bush Era On Guantánamo (May 2009), New Chief Prosecutor Appointed For Military Commissions At Guantánamo (May 2009), Pain At Guantánamo And Paralysis In Government (May 2009), My Message To Obama: Great Speech, But No Military Commissions and No “Preventive Detention” (May 2009), Guantánamo And The Many Failures Of US Politicians (May 2009), A Child At Guantánamo: The Unending Torment of Mohamed Jawad (June 2009), A Broken Circus: Guantánamo Trials Convene For One Day Of Chaos (June 2009), Obama Proposes Swift Execution of Alleged 9/11 Conspirators (June 2009), Obama’s Confusion Over Guantánamo Terror Trials (June 2009).

26 Responses

  1. the talking dog says...

    An amazing round-up Andy; I don’t think it’s an overstatement to describe you as the Herodotus or Gibbon of this era.

    And clearly, Addington is indeed an indispensable cog in the wheel of these show trials and war-on-terror torture/ policy in general (albeit with significant help from Johnny on-the-spot Yoo, Flanigan, Gonzales, Haynes (and so many others who know who they are… and we do too).

    But, as disagreeable as Addington is, could any of this have been pulled off without significant complacency from the American people? The fact is, few demands for accountability had ever been made (Bush famously concluding that “his accountability moment” was his reelection). Even “the opposition party” in Congress has been pretty pathetic in its “oversight”.

    One can conclude at the end of the day that Americans just don’t care, either what the rest of the world thinks, or that the “justice” being done in their name is a pathetic replica of an American trial (though much more like Kafka’s Trial)… really reflects a much broader, deeper problem. One could say “if only the American people knew…” But I remain unconvinced that they wouldn’t be, by and large, just delighted that “the terrorists” (whether it be KSM or some likely innocent juvenile picked up in a broad sweep) are being mis-treated. It’s always a political winner here to rail against “coddling criminals”… even if those are “wrongly accused” criminal suspects.

    That, IMHO, is truly at the dark heart of this… which allowed the villains to proceed unabated… to this day.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    After this article was published on CounterPunch, I received the following encouragement from Paul Craig Roberts, which brightened up my day:

    Andy, you are doing outstanding reporting. You should receive some sort of award.

  3. Maria Luis Demée says...

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    […] the same man employed by George W. Bush), retained other Bush officials in worryingly high places (Susan Crawford, for example, a protégée of Dick Cheney and a close friend of David Addington, who oversees the […]

  7. New Chief Prosecutor Appointed For Military Commissions At Guantánamo by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] as I discussed in an article last October, “The Dark Heart of the Guantánamo Trials,” it is difficult to have any faith in her objectivity given her close connections to Cheney and […]

  8. Guantánamo And The Many Failures Of US Politicians by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] Military Commissions as a possible parallel path (given that no sticking plaster can disguise how corrupt the whole process was under the Bush administration), and completely dismayed that he could contemplate introducing a […]

  9. Obama’s First 100 Days: Mixed Messages On Torture by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] brave souls, like the military defense attorneys in the Military Commission trial system, or the prosecutors who resigned, or other officers who broke ranks to complain about the brutality and injustice of the “War on […]

  10. Military Commissions: Government Flounders, As Admiral Hutson Nails Problems by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] because of the politicization of the process (which I wrote about in an article last October, “The Dark Heart of the Guantánamo Trials”) and the administration’s insistence on using information derived from the use of torture […]

  11. Former Insider Shatters Credibility of Military Commissions by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] occasions, sent shockwaves through the Commission system under the Bush administration, when he spectacularly resigned last September, declaring, “I am highly concerned, to the point that I believe I can no longer serve as a […]

  12. Guantánamo And The Courts Part One: Exposing The Bush Administration’s Lies by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] in the case of Mohamed Jawad, an Afghan whose story I have been reporting since October 2007 (see here, here, here and here), I have decided to take this opportunity to present a two-part overview of […]

  13. As Judge Orders Release Of Tortured Guantánamo Prisoner, Government Refuses To Concede Defeat by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] that he had once been a “true believer,” but had ended up feeling “truly deceived,” Lt. Col. Vandeveld explained, as I described it in an article two months ago, that he had come to regard the Commissions as “a […]

  14. How Judge Huvelle Humiliated The Government In Guantánamo Case by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] including — there is a prosecutor from the military commission [Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld] who quit and wrote a 20-page affidavit. He investigated. They had defense counsel for the military [Maj. […]

  15. Guantánamo And The Courts (Part Three): Obama’s Continuing Shame by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] had persistently abused Jawad, and although his former prosecutor, Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld (who resigned last September because of his disillusionment with the inability of the Commission system to deliver justice in […]

  16. Reflections On Mohamed Jawad’s Release From Guantánamo by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] in the Commission system that was precipitated in September 2008, when his military prosecutor, Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, resigned, declaring that the Commission system was unable to deliver justice, and explaining how he had gone […]

  17. Ali al-Marri, The Last US “Enemy Combatant,” Receives Eight-Year Sentence + Ali al-Marri’s Statement In Court by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] three results after eight years of the Military Commissions — each of which, in various ways, was regarded as compromised or inadequate — it is, frankly, difficult to perceive the logic in the world of […]

  18. The Logic of the 9/11 Trials, The Madness of the Military Commissions « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] military defense attorneys, and also from a number of prosecutors who resigned, including Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld and the former chief prosecutor, Col. Morris Davis, who all recognized that it was rigged to […]

  19. Former Guantánamo Prosecutor Loses Job For Criticizing Military Commissions by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] the victims of torture over Davis’s objections — can be found, in particular, in my article, “The Dark Heart of the Guantánamo Trials,” but to conclude this account with a concise explanation, it is worth noting the following […]

  20. Guantánamo Guard and Ex-Prisoners Meet (via the BBC) « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] my email exchange with him, Brandon wrote that he had had discussions with the Australian prisoner David Hicks, but I didn’t know until this week that he had also spoken to the British prisoners — Shafiq […]

  21. Col. Morris Davis Defends the Rule of Law, Calls for Prosecution for Torturers « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] accountability for the torture of some of the detainees captured in the global war on terrorism? Susan Crawford, who until recently served as the head of the Defense Department’s Office of Military […]

  22. Veracity Radio » Conservative and Liberal Pillagers Master the Art of Pandering says...

    […] accountability for the torture of some of the detainees captured in the global war on terrorism? Susan Crawford, who until recently served as the head of the Defense Department’s Office of Military […]

  23. Obama’s Collapse: The Return of the Military Commissions « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] Hicks, an Australian, who, in March 2007, accepted a plea deal and was a free man nine months […]

  24. An Extraordinary Article by Jason Leopold About His Friendship with Former Guantánamo Prisoner David Hicks « Eurasia Review says...

    […] David Hicks, the former Guantánamo prisoner from Australia, who was released in March 2007 after accepting a plea deal in a trial by Military Commission, and who recently published his autobiography, Guantánamo: My Journey, and that, as well as […]

  25. Defiance in Isolation: The Last Stand Of Omar Khadr « Eurasia Review says...

    […] Khadr’s decision to boycott his forthcoming trial appears resolutely counter-productive. Of the three prisoners convicted in the Commissions’ miserable eight-year history (a fourth, Ibrahim al-Qosi, […]

  26. Bush Era Ends With a Little Truth | Lew Rockwell says...

    […] Perhaps — though this may be a nave interpretation, and is certainly not meant to excuse her demonstrably poor performance as the commissions’ convening authority — she had looked to the future and was […]

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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