Tuesday, November 13, 2007


U.S. Needs "Tin-Horns Anoymous"

So the deal is this: the government can try someone as an “enemy combatant,” and can not detail exactly what evidence it has. Like “trust us, we’re the government.” This is just absolute bullshit: immoral, unconstitutional, and unreal. It’s like the worst kind of set-up to railroad people, as bad as anything Stalin or Hitler or Pinochet did. That the United States is doing it means morally we’re no better than any tin-horn dictatorship. Which is maybe appropriate, since no matter how one looks at it, George Bush is a tin-horn.

Detainee lawyers see stacked deck; Guantanamo attorneys point to evidence and witnesses that are brought to their attention late -- if at all.

Carol J. Williams, Los Angeles Times, November 13, 2007; A14


The rules governing war-crimes trials here require defense lawyers and prosecutors to inform each other of witnesses they will call and evidence they will present at the military commissions.

But the vague guidance on the process known as discovery doesn't impose any obligation to make timely disclosures. Nor does it oblige the government to make its witnesses available to the defense for pretrial interviews.

Unique to the tribunal system that is governed by neither U.S. criminal law nor the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the commissions allow liberal use of classified evidence that a defendant doesn't get to see and protective orders that shield the identity of witnesses, interrogators and informants.

Defense lawyers for the terrorism suspects contend that the deck is stacked against them in preparing their cases. They say the administration officials running the tribunals can hide critical information and helpful testimony from the defense.

The extent to which the government can thwart defense preparation became apparent last week just 36 hours before the Thursday arraignment of Canadian war-crimes suspect Omar Khadr. His Navy lawyer, Lt. Cmdr. William C. Kuebler, learned then that the commissions' hierarchy had known for five years of a U.S. government employee who was an eyewitness to the 2002 firefight in Afghanistan in which Khadr is accused of having thrown the grenade that killed a U.S. Special Forces medic.
The eyewitness' account contradicts the government version of events and could exonerate Khadr of the war crimes with which he is charged: murder, attempted murder, conspiracy, spying and material support for terrorism.

"They weren't going to tell us who he was or how to get in touch with him or where he was," said Kuebler, who has been lobbying the Canadian government to demand repatriation of his client so he can be tried "in a legitimate system."

"This is a process that's not designed to be fair; it's designed to produce convictions," Kuebler added.

Kuebler described as "draconian" the government's use of protective orders -- a move to shield evidence on grounds that its disclosure would reveal intelligence tactics, undermine security or pose a risk to the person providing it.

Affidavits sworn by bounty hunters in Pakistan who turned over more than 200 of Guantanamo's prisoners in exchange for sums upward of $5,000 are among the classified documents that neither defendants nor trial observers are allowed to see.
That withholding of classified information from the defense and the public has resulted in many of the 305 prisoners here remaining in detention for nearly six years without knowing exactly what they are accused of or who made the accusations.

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