published Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

Hamilton County: Plan to close Gitmo draws mixed reviews


by Monica Mercer
Audio clip

Jeffrey Addicott

The man who said he helped plan the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, expressed dismay Wednesday at President Barack Obama’s request to halt war crimes trials at Guantanamo Bay, according to the Chattanooga military lawyer defending him.

“(Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) opposed the (government’s) motion because he wants to ‘move forward’ with his case rather than ‘move backward’ as he seeks an early martyrdom,” Army Lt. Col. Mike Acuff, a former Hamilton County public defender, said in an e-mail from Guantanamo Bay.

Yet many, including Lt. Col. Acuff, have long argued that the special prosecution rules at Guantanamo Bay, which were made legal by Congress in 2006 with the passage of the Military Commissions Act, have caused the country to move away from the Constitution’s guarantee of fair and impartial trials for accused criminals.

“This country has gone wrong where we have put people in jail, changed the rules and haven’t given them a quick and fair opportunity to hear their cases,” Lt. Col. Acuff recently told the Times Free Press in an exclusive interview.

Mr. Obama’s request Wednesday seemed to justify that argument, a move in step with his pledge to close Guantanamo Bay, a U.S. facility on the Cuban coast guarded by American Marines. Military judges quickly agreed Wednesday to a 120-day suspension of the case against Mr. Mohammed and his four codefendants, the Associated Press reported.

In Washington, the new administration circulated a draft executive order that calls for closing Guantanamo Bay, known in military circles as Gitmo, within a year and reviewing the cases of all the nearly 245 inmates still detained there. The government would release some, transfer others and put the rest such as Mr. Mohammed on trial, possibly in U.S. federal court.

Jeffrey Addicott, a retired military lawyer and director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio, said closing Gitmo is a “mistake” that could leave Americans reeling from the unintended consequences.

“My prediction is that a lot of these (suspected terrorists) will not be charged with the most serious crimes, and many of them are going to go free” if they are transferred to federal court, Mr. Addicott said.

Part of the problem, he noted, is that some evidence gained under the military commissions rules against prisoners such as Mr. Mohammed wouldn’t stand in other legal venues.

Criticisms have been leveled against tactics used in the military commissions, including the “enhanced interrogation techniques,” a euphemism for what some call torture. Detainees also have been held without the right to a “speedy trial,” the rule in the federal courts system.

And evidence gathered through “hearsay testimony” is allowed in the military commissions, despite being illegal in the trials of prisoners on U.S. soil.

Former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, however, successfully prosecuted suspected 9/11 terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui in 2006 in U.S. federal court, not in the military commissions at Gitmo.

Former U.S. attorney and current U.S. District Judge Harry S. “Sandy” Mattice Jr. of Chattanooga said he had discussions with Mr. McNulty about that trial, but would only say that “there were a lot of obstacles and challenges (Mr. McNulty) faced in carrying out that prosecution.”

Local defense attorney and former army officer Barry Abbott praised Mr. Obama’s decision, calling Gitmo a “legal quagmire” that no longer has credibility.

“From a fundamental rights perspective, the minute we do not give people basic humans rights as a society is the minute that we deny our own democratic values,” Mr. Abbott said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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GreenKepi said...

Aw...what the heck. Might as well. Think about it. It's about the same as having a jar of mosquitoes while sitting around a pond that's infested with them...what good does it do with 200 or so in a jar and you still have 1,000's flying around biting you? And then, all you can do is swat at the ones flying.

January 22, 2009 at 8:43 a.m.
thatguy said...

The constitution does allow for a fast and speedy trial, it does allow for the accused to be represented by council, and it does allow for the accused to face their accusers. But it does not require the press to publish what they say or allegedly says. The press as a whole helps these terrorist become martyrs and the terrorist use this avenue to their advantage. Press wise up and stop helping their cause, there are other things that will sell papers and news.

January 22, 2009 at 9:32 a.m.

Are you kidding me?!?!

When in the world did the US decide to treat everyone in the whole world like citizens of the US??

Do you think for a second that if a US citizen, in a prison in another country, would be treated like a citizen of that same country? Like Iran for example, if you were a prisoner in Iran do you think you would be treated like a citizen of Iran? I highly doubt it!

I do think that they should be treated humanely, but not like US citizens, that is reserved for, well, only US citizens! Treating someone like a human being is different than giving them the special rights that US citizens have.

Obama already making bad decisions!!! Way to go America!

January 22, 2009 at 2:38 p.m.
rigsbyc said...

The US has fought several wars in its short history. I cannot recall one in which we treated POWs as criminals with constitutional rights. If a country is generous enough to take prisoners (some have a "take no prisoners" policy and just kill everyone) and treat them humanely, as we have the prisoners at Gitmo, then that is enough. These people are the enemy. They have tried to destroy our economy and kill us. Until now, the US would negotiate with the other side at the end of the war for the safe return of our soldiers held as POWs in foreign camps. The currency was often the return of those imprisoned in our camps. While this is not feasable in this war, neither is giving the enemy rights to our court system. Our courts are designed to protect and serve US citizens, not the enemy. The enemy should be treated humanely, but forced to provide for their own survival and housing throughout the war. Then they can return home under conditions deemed safe for our physical and economic security.

January 22, 2009 at 3:21 p.m.
m554g said...

I agree that the detainees should not be given the same rights and priviledges of a U.S. citizen but they should, however, be treated humanely. I was reading information regarding Guantanomo Bay Military Prison on Wikipedia and MSNBC.com and there have been many astounding and mind blowing allegations of all sorts of inhumane treatment of these prisoners. I believe many of the prisoners should be tried and put to death for the atrosities that they have committed but I don't agree with torture, religious degredation, and the dehumanizing tactics that our U.S. military has been accused of using. If we act like black hearted, cruel monsters, we are no better than they are. The U.S. as a God fearing nation has a standard that we should be living up to so that we can regain and maintain the respect that our founding fathers intended us to have.

January 22, 2009 at 3:40 p.m.
rolando said...

First and foremost, Wikipedia.com is NOT, I repeat, NOT a website to be cited or trusted. It is primarily a customer-written document. ANYONE can input ANYTHING with minimal control. Do NOT drink its kool-aid and take it with a grain of salt.

Same thing, only more so, with MSNBC and the other agenda-driven networks.

While stationed overseas, I learned early on to ignore the news on AFRS [the local US Military Radio] listening instead to Voice of America, USSR Radio [forgot the name] and BBC on multi-band or short-wave radio. If the US denied something, it inevitably turned out to be true. Same thing with the Ruskies. The BBC was accurate [for non-Brit topics] about 90 percent of the time. Guess which one I trusted for my news?

PS. That is how one eventually starts looking at things with the old fish eye.

January 22, 2009 at 4:11 p.m.
m554g said...

I do believe in the old addage "believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see." The fact is many, many allegations have been made over the years. I am sure they can be researched many places other than the sites mentioned. A former U.S.Army Sgt. serving as a linguist at Guantanomo has even written a book outlining some of the things he witnessed during interogations....not saying that they are true, just saying that these things have been alledged and after seeing the behavior of the U.S. soldiers and the pictures of the treatment of the prisoners at Aubu Ghraib, I have a hard time believing there is not some truth in the allegations. There have been all sorts or press releases and discussion of this matter. One only has to open his/her eyes to see that something FISHY has been going on at Gitmo.

January 22, 2009 at 4:46 p.m.
rolando said...

These prisoners are not soldiers, they are not uniformed; they are terrorists. In short, they are subhuman animals bent on world domination and are exempt from all international rules of war.

They deliberately and knowingly target women and children -- like my wife, children and grandchildren...and yours, and yours, and yours. They don't care who they kill; the more uproar over it, the better they like it. They blow up their own children, grandchildren and womenfolk; they use them as shields. How human [or even animal-like] is THAT?

I ask you, what possible military value did the Twin Towers possess to warrant destruction?

By all legal rights, international or otherwise, we can do anything to these animals we so choose; we could stand them against a wall and shoot them. They tried to kill our soldiers. They are NOT prisoners-of-war and have NO rights under our courts or any others except those we choose to give them. Being Americans we choose to limit our actions; they certainly don't.

But then I always was a bit harsh toward pedophiles, child abusers, and rapists -- choosing to excuse myself from those interrogations.

If I knew or even suspected they had information that would stop the killing of my family or our soldiers, sailors, or Marines I would do a darn sight more than have our Amazons/Valkyries walk them around a prison in their underwear as a lesson in humility. Nor would I stop at waterboarding, if necessary. Those are time-tested tactics because they work and work without physical damage. [Personally, I couldn't care less if the precious sweeties are mentally damaged worse than they are.]

In short, these terrorists do not deserve American justice; they deserve their own.

January 22, 2009 at 6:10 p.m.
thatguy said...

As I recall many many times President George W. Bush as saying "war on terror" he said it so many times that one would believe he had declared war on terror which would make the detainees prisoners of war. Which give them the rights of prisoners of war?

January 23, 2009 at 9:01 a.m.
m554g said...

When we avenge brutality with brutality or sadism with sadism, what makes us any better than those perpetrating the initial crime. In the end we will all be held accountable for the things we have done, not the things others have done to us. By no means do I excuse any of the crimes waged against another human being by terrorists or any other criminal, but I believe that there is man's law and man's rules and then there is God's law. I know that there are laws set up to protect us that do not always coincide with the will of God but unfortunately, to obtain some sort of civility in this world they have become necessary but we should maintain some sort of restraint instead of having an anything goes mentality.

January 23, 2009 at 11:08 a.m.
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