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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:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”