No Comment — May 17, 2007, 7:45 pm

The Persecution of Lt Cmdr Diaz, Continued

At the Norfolk court martial of Lt Cmdr Matthew Diaz, the officer who coordinated the Navy’s response to demands for disclosure of information about detainees at Guantánamo has given testimony which demolishes the prosecution’s contentions about the nature of the information disclosed and the reasons for not disclosing it.

As I noted in my earlier posts, the information concerning the detainees is required by law to be disclosed and was ordered turned over by a Federal Court. Accordingly, the Navy’s suggestion that it had national security value is nothing short of farcical, and the reason why the Government’s own expert refused to support the prosecution at the indictment stage is now fairly clear.

Carol Rosenberg reports on the testimony of Pentagon attorney Carol Hecker in the Miami Herald on the first day of evidence:

In late 2004, Hecker said, the Pentagon decided to reject a request from the New York rights center seeking names and nationalities, next of kin and countries of residence of the detainees. The U.S. Supreme Court had earlier ruled that Guantánamo captives could challenge their detention, and the rights center wanted to line up family members to authorize the filing of lawsuits on their behalf.

”It was never in question. We were debating what exactly we should say about why we were saying no,” she said, citing an e-mail discussion and various drafts of rejection letters that moved between the base, Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora’s office and the U.S. Department of Justice. In the end, she said, they cited policy and the requests of unnamed third countries to shield the captives’ identities–and told the group that individual Guantánamo detainees could write a federal court or the American Bar Association, from behind the razor wire at the U.S. naval base, to get a lawyer.

What’s really fascinating about this case is the twisted course of increasingly absurd hyperventilation coming out of the prosecution. The decision not to supply the information starts with a reasonable, but incorrect, policy assessment aimed at “shielding the prisoners.” This is then furiously whipped into a cappuccino froth by unknown figures up the chain of command, who suddenly claim national security concerns, proceed to assert national security classifications with respect to the documentation, and then even argue that the turn over is designed to benefit some foreign enemy.

The obvious ultimate question is why anyone should believe prosecutors who behave in such a cavalier and irresponsible fashion? Considering the way military justice functions, this case could still result in a conviction. But what’s already clear is that if it does, justice will have played no role in it.

What’s the function of this court-martial? You might well ask that question. I think the person in the best position to answer it is Captain James Yee, the Gitmo chaplain who previously was run through an almost identical meatgrinder. In the end, Yee emerged as a hero, and the military justice system was severely tarnished. That same process is now underway in Norfolk.

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