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The proceedings in the Guantánamo military commissions continue, and the professional participants continue to grapple with the poorly disguised efforts of the Bush Administration to fix the outcome. JAG attorneys active in the commissions have frequently cited Thomas W. Hartmann as the source of their concerns. Hartmann, whose civilian job is general counsel to Mxenergy Holdings Inc., the Stamford, Connecticut gas producer and distributor, was handpicked and brought out of the JAG reserves to serve as the Bush Administration’s stage manager for the Guantánamo productions. His formal position is as “legal advisor” to Susan J. Crawford, the convening authority. Crawford, a retired military judge, previously worked for Dick Cheney and is known as a crony of David Addington.
In concept, Hartmann plays a supervisory role over the process in an administrative sense. He is also supposed to review decisions of the commissions and make a recommendation to Crawford before he passes them on to her for finalization and approval. However, according to testimony taken in the Gitmo proceedings, Hartmann played his hand crudely from the outset. He appeared before a Senate committee suggesting repeatedly his belief that torture-induced evidence could be used, and denying that waterboarding was torture. His highly evasive performance caused Republican Senator Lindsey Graham to express disgust.
When the first charges were announced, Hartmann appeared on national television brandishing harsh labels and prejudging cases on which he was slated to exercise an appellate review function—raising questions under professional ethics rules which later fueled challenges against him.
As the cases proceeded, accounts of Hartmann’s bullying and intimidation of other lawyers participating in the process circulated. In the Salim Hamdan case, his involvement drew a challenge, and after the court heard evidence of Hartmann’s improper conduct that included specific allegations that he was jockeying to have cases publicized and tried “before the elections,” he was banned from involvement in the case. Hartmann refused to resign, and protested that he was doing precisely what was called for by his job description.
In the last week, Hartmann faced a second challenge in another case. The former chief prosecutor, Colonel Moe Davis, testified that Hartmann had lobbied hard for the prosecution of an Afghan detainee named Mohammed Jawad, apparently because Hartmann felt the case would play well to an American television audience. Davis was followed by Gen. Gregory Zanetti, who testified that Hartmann routinely bullied other attorneys and was inappropriately aggressive in pushing for prosecution of certain cases that he felt had media value. Zanetti concluded that Hartmann’s behavior was “abusive, bullying and unprofessional. . . pretty much across the board.” Consistent with his public remarks, Hartmann’s actions reflected a particular bias in favor of aggressive prosecution of cases which he feels could be exploited politically to the advantage of the Bush Administration.
The current chief prosecutor, Col. Lawrence Morris, defended Hartmann, stating that the issues raised reflected nothing more than “a superficial personality conflict.” Morris is Hartmann’s direct subordinate. Interestingly, this is the same defense that Hartmann adopted when his conduct became the subject of an internal Defense Department probe.
Now a second military judge, Col. Steve Henley, has ordered Hartmann’s removal from the proceedings, sustaining the accusations raised against him. In an order handed down on Friday, Hartmann was banned from participation in the case, and the defense counsel were advised that they could make submissions in their quest for access to exculpatory evidence directly to Crawford, bypassing Hartmann.
For an attorney to be formally admonished and removed from legal proceedings twice for unprofessional conduct is an extraordinary matter. However, Hartmann is defiant, insisting that his actions are proper. One wonders if the disciplinary authorities of the Connecticut bar are following these developments.
Update: Readers advise me over the weekend that Hartmann is not a member of the bar in the state in which he most recently practiced, Connecticut, but he is admitted in Illinois and Missouri.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
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.
In Havana, the past year has been marked by a parade of bold-faced names from the north — John Kerry reopening the United States Embassy; Andrew Cuomo bringing a delegation of American business leaders; celebrities ranging from Joe Torre, traveling on behalf of Major League Baseball to oversee an exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, to Jimmy Buffett, said to be considering opening one of his Margaritaville restaurants there. All this culminated with a three-day trip in March by Barack Obama, the first American president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. But to those who know the city well, perhaps nothing said as much about the transformation of political relations between the United States and Cuba that began in December 2014 as a concert in the Tribuna Antiimperialista.
Estimated temperature of Hell, according to two Spanish physicists ‘ interpretation of the Bible:
The ecosystems around Chernobyl, Ukraine, are now healthier than they were before the nuclear disaster, though radiation levels are still too high for human habitation.
A TSA agent in Seattle was arrested for taking up-skirt photos of women in the airport, a Maryland police officer was arrested for taking up-skirt photos of an off-duty colleague, and the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that taking up-skirt photos is legal in the state.
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“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.'”