No Comment — June 22, 2007, 10:08 pm

The “Enemy Combatant” Fraud

A key aspect of the legal architecture of the “war on terror” crafted by the Bush Administration involves labeling all persons seized and held as “terrorist detainees” (look at the telling language used in the letter from Air Force General Counsel Mary Walker, published in this space yesterday, for instance). Under the laws of war, a person seized on the battlefield is presumed to be a lawful combatant and as such entitled to prisoner of war treatment pursuant to article 5 of the Third Geneva Convention. This status can be overturned by a process of administrative review in which a determination is made that the person is not a lawful combatant in which case the detainee has protections under article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions. However, the Bush Administration decided to turn this system on its head, introducing the fiction that “the president” had made the determination that every person seized was an “unlawful enemy combatant.” There was no need for specific evidence or facts about the persons seized. It was conclusively presumed.

Of course we subsequently learned that over 80% of the persons held at Guantánamo had nothing to do with al Qaeda, or any other terrorist group. For the most part they were seized so that their captors could avail themselves of a bounty payment that the Pentagon very foolishly began offering for prisoners early in the war.

They persisted in this nonsense until the Supreme Court declared the process illegal.

But that led to a dilemma. If the person was really a civilian noncombatant, and he had been seized and held for years, subjected to torture and other illegal interrogation techniques, then the U.S. had a problem. Then, of course, what had been done was a criminal act. Indeed, a felony under American law. It was therefore essential to juryrig a system which would guarantee the result they needed to protect themselves from criminal liability.

And so the Combat Status Review Tribunal (“CSRT”) was born. The CSRT has been enshrouded in controversy from its start. To call the CSRT a kangaroo court would be an insult to kangaroo courts; it is far worse than that. Indeed, it would be embarrassing to allow outsiders to actually watch one of these farces in operation. The Pentagon therefore denied journalists and others the right to attend the proceedings, contending that national security secrets were prone to come up. Instead redacted transcripts were to be provided afterwards. And, like clockwork, the Pentagon has produced transcripts which reflect page on end of redactions: the witnesses coming before the tribunals describe how they were tortured.

Today, a very brave Army lieutenant colonel has come forward to reveal how utterly shameless and fraudulent the entire CSRT process is. The Associated Press reports:

Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham, a 26-year veteran of military intelligence who is an Army reserve officer and a California lawyer, said military prosecutors were provided with only “generic” material that didn’t hold up to the most basic legal challenges. Despite repeated requests, intelligence agencies arbitrarily refused to provide specific information that could have helped either side in the tribunals, according to Abraham, who said he served as a main liaison between the Combat Status Review Tribunals and those intelligence agencies.

“What were purported to be specific statements of fact lacked even the most fundamental earmarks of objectively credible evidence,” Abraham said in the affidavit, filed in a Washington appeals court on behalf of a Kuwaiti detainee, Fawzi al-Odah, who is challenging his classification as an “enemy combatant”…

“It proves what we all suspected, which is that the CSRTs were a complete sham,” Cynamon said.

Matthew J. MacLean, another al-Odah lawyer, said Abraham is the first member of a Combat Status Review Tribunal panel who has been identified, let alone been willing to criticize the tribunals in the public record. “It wouldn’t be quite right to say this is the most important piece of evidence that has come out of the CSRT process, because this is the only piece of evidence ever to come out of the CSRT process,” MacLean said. “It’s our only view into the CSRT.”

I am now specifically aware of three separate teams of JAG prosecutors who have resigned rather than conduct proceedings in the kangaroo-court system the Bush Administration has contrived in Guantánamo. In two of the three cases, the prosecutors specifically stated that they were aware that exculpatory evidence was being systematically withheld and fraudulent, false or torture-induced evidence was being used. This is but one of many manifestations of the Bush Administration’s war on the rule of law.

And Lieutenant Colonel Abraham had better watch out. He’s likely to land exactly where Lieutenant Commander Diaz and Lieutenant Colonel Steele have landed in the shortest of time. They’ll surely claim that he is revealing vital national security secrets, because the most closely held secret of the Bush Administration is the complete fraudulence of the system they have crafted at Gitmo. I would say that they took Franz Kafka’s “Penal Colony” for a model, but if you look carefully, you’ll see that Kafka provides a system with more elements of procedural fairness than they do. Another hallmark of this regime is its vindictiveness. Not only does it despise law and justice, it is intent on destroying those who want to uphold these fundamental American values. It is the monster that eats its own children; its mentality is in its innermost core criminal.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

July 2016

The Ideology of Isolation

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

American Idle

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

My Holy Land Vacation

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The City That Bleeds

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

El Bloqueo

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Vladivostok Station

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
My Holy Land Vacation·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"I wanted to more fully understand why conservative politics had become synonymous with no-questions-asked support of Israel."
Illustration (detail) by Matthew Richardson
Post
Inside the July Issue·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Tom Bissell on touring Israel with Christian Zionists, Joy Gordon on the Cuban embargo, Lawrence Jackson on Freddie Gray and the makings of an American uprising, a story by Paul Yoon, and more

Freddie Gray’s relatives arrived for the trial in the afternoon, after the prep-school kids had left. By their dress, they seemed to have just gotten off work in the medical and clerical fields. The family did not appear at ease in the courtroom. They winced and dropped their heads as William Porter and his fellow officer Zachary Novak testified to opening the doors of their police van last April and finding Freddie paralyzed, unresponsive, with mucus pooling at his mouth and nose. Four women and one man mournfully listened as the officers described needing to get gloves before they could touch him.

The first of six Baltimore police officers to be brought before the court for their treatment of Freddie Gray, a black twenty-five-year-old whose death in their custody was the immediate cause of the city’s uprising last spring, William Porter is young, black, and on trial. Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing.

Artwork: Camels, Jerusalem (detail) copyright Martin Parr/Magnum Photos
Post
Europe’s Hamilton Moment·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"We all know in France that as soon as a politician starts saying that some problem will be solved at the European level, that means no one is going to do anything."
Photograph (detail) by Stefan Boness
[Report]
How to Make Your Own AR-15·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Even if federal gun-control advocates got everything they wanted, they couldn’t prevent America’s most popular rifle from being made, sold, and used. Understanding why this is true requires an examination of how the firearm is made.
Illustration by Jeremy Traum
Article
The City That Bleeds·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Here in this courtroom, in this city, in this nation, race and the future seem so intertwined as to be the same thing."
Photograph (detail) © Wil Sands/Fractures Collective

Number of Turkish college students detained in the last year for requesting Kurdish-language classes:

1,146

Turkey was funding a search for Suleiman the Magnificent’s heart.

A former prison in Philadelphia that has served as a horror-movie set was being prepared as a detention center for protesters arrested at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today