Serving the Truth

Writing yesterday in the Daily Beast, Lt. Col. Daniel Davis provides a moving tribute to the late Michael Hastings. In the piece, we learn that Hastings didn’t merely help Davis by publishing Davis’ long-form unclassified report detailing how “progress” in Afghanistan as reported by the military has no basis in reality, but Hastings actually provided some of the inspiration for Davis to enter into his process of exposing military lies:

I first met Michael in early May 2011, while I was in Washington on leave from the combat zone in Afghanistan. I agreed to meet him at the behest of a mutual friend, though I was hesitant. Prior to that meeting the only thing I knew about Hastings was that he had authored the Rolling Stone piece that led to the firing of Gen. Stanley McChrystal. Most people I knew in the military believed Hastings to be a raging liberal who hated the military. Yet because our mutual friend held him in such high esteem, I agreed to meet. I am so thankful I did so.

Within 10 minutes of meeting him my opinion had changed dramatically. I found him to be a very rational, honest, and respectful guy. He also showed real interest in and concern for the regular combat troop and was definitely not some “military hater.” Over the course of lunch that day I shared with him my frustration at what I believed to be a significant chasm between what some of our senior military leaders were saying in public and what I knew to be true behind the scenes. Michael told me that didn’t surprise him, because he’d seen it in his own experience over the years and had many soldiers tell him the same thing.

Note what fuels the relationship between Davis and Hastings. Both care deeply about regular combat soldiers and see that high-ranking officers are lying about what is taking place in Afghanistan. It is clear from Davis’ piece that this meeting with Hastings, and the understanding of Hastings’ motivations that the meeting provided, served as inspiration for Davis: Read more

Article II or AUMF? “A High Level Official” (AKA John Brennan) Says CIA Can Murder You

I’m not sure whether Michael Isikoff decided to stamp his version of the white paper all over with “NBC News” to make sure we all knew who was the go-to for sanctioned leaks, or whether Dianne Feinstein and the Administration asked him to do so to make it all but unreadable.

But I’m grateful that Jason Leopold has now liberated another copy that he has made available in readable form. Because now that I can read it, it becomes even more clear why Ron Wyden has persistent questions about whether the Administration killed Anwar al-Awlaki based on authorities granted under the the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force or Article II.

Contrary to what I said in this post, the memo is actually very nearly balanced, never ultimately committing to whether it relies on AUMF or Article II. In fact, the white paper often employs a dual structure, invoking both the AUMF and self-defense in the same sentence or successive ones. At times, that dual structure is sound. At other times — as with its invocation of Hamdi — it uses the dual structure to rhetorically adopt a precedent for Article II authority that has only been granted under the AUMF.

The most troubling incidence of that comes in one of the white paper’s most extensive sections, analyzing whether 18 USC 1119’s prohibition on murdering Americans overseas includes a public authority exception for those acting in an official capacity. While bmaz promises to refute the argument they do make, for the military it does seem to make sense. A soldier at war can kill someone without being subject to murder charges, right? But applying such a public authority exception to the CIA — which is prohibited from breaking US law under the National Security Act — effectively asserts that if the President authorizes the CIA to murder Americans, based solely on his Article II authority, it can murder Americans.

This dual structure, then, seems to serve more to allow rhetorical argumentative moves that would be astonishing if made to apply to the CIA alone than to authorize DOD to kill Anwar al-Awlaki.

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“Terrorists are cowards. Torturers are, too.”

Former Gitmo prosecutor Morris Davis makes, in really powerful fashion, a point I’ve been contemplating: how does Hillary Clinton get off criticizing the torture of Syrian teenager Hamza Ali al-Khateeb or Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad when we have done nothing to hold those who tortured Mohammed al-Qahtani accountable? (h/t Michelle Shephard)

In the fall of 2005, when I was chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, I sat down for a lengthy discussion with a veteran member of the prosecution team, a Marine Corps officer with an extensive background in criminal prosecution. We discussed a case that caused him concern, one he said he was not comfortable prosecuting. After describing some of the specifics of the detainee’s treatment at Guantanamo, which was documented in official records, the prosecutor said: “Sir, they fucked with him and they fucked with him until now he’s as crazy as a shit-house rat.” In an interview with Bob Woodward published in the Washington Post in January 2009, Susan Crawford, the Bush administration official who supervised the military commissions, explained why she refused to send the same case to trial when it reached her desk in the spring of 2008. “We tortured Qahtani,” she said, “His treatment met the legal definition of torture.”

The alleged torture of Hamza Ali al-Khateeb, Syed Saleem Shahzad, and Mohammed al Qahtani by government agents that signed the Convention Against Torture begs the question, is a law that is ignored worth the paper it is written on?

If we want to criticize others for their crimes, Davis argues, then we need to practice what we preach.

Who decides which obligations are truly obligatory and which means go too far to ever justify the ends? Chemical weapons may have been a fast and convenient way to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda in the rugged Tora Bora region in late 2001 and may have killed Bin Laden a decade earlier, but is effectiveness, or that it might work, or that others do it justification to violate the Chemical Weapons Convention prohibitions and commit a war crime? If the standard is the United States decides ad hoc which commitments it will honor and which it will not then it should be honest and repudiate those it considers non-binding and the sense to stop the hypocritical criticism of others that fail to live up to its “do as we say, not as we do” example. On the other hand, if the United States means what it says about the rule of law, it has to demonstrate that it practices what it purports to preach.

And he ends by calling on decent people to reclaim our national moral compass.

Do decent human beings have the temerity to stand up and insist the law be enforced? Does the United States have the integrity to lead by example, or has the government engaging in torture become as accepted as government official lying when the truth is inconvenient? We need to find our moral compass.

Go read it.

The 9/11 Detainees Want Hartmann Disqualified, Too

In thoroughly unsurprising news, the defense attorneys for the five 9/11 High Value Detainees (including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh) have moved to either have the charges against their clients dismissed or, at least, have General Hartmann disqualified as Legal Advisor to the Show Trials. Here’s Carol Rosenberg on that story–as well as the news that Judge Allred will delay the start of Salim Hamdan’s trial until after SCOTUS rules in Boumedienne.

This motion obviously piggy-backs on Judge Allred’s decision from last week to have Hartmann disqualified in the Hamdan trial. The 9/11 defendants largely replicate the Hamdan complaint in their own motion–with one significant addition. They also argue that Hartmann illegally tried to coerce defense counsel, in addition to Colonel Morris Davis, the Chief Prosecutor. As they describe:

On January 25, 2008, a member of the Convening Authority’s staff, Colonel Wendy Kelly, inadvertently emailed a draft copy of the charges against Khaleed Sheikh Mohammed and five other detainees to Mr. Michael Berrigan, the Deputy Chief Defense Counsel. The draft charges were being circulated within the Office of the Convening Authority. Mr. Berrigan immediately notified Colonel Kelly of the disclosure and ascertained it was inadvertent, but after seeking counsel from his state bar, refused to return the draft charges.

On February 1, 2008, the Legal Advisor to the Convening Authority wrote a memorandum to the Chief Defense Counsel, Colonel Steven David. General Hartmann stated that he had contacted the professional responsibility offices for the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps and they had opined that Mr. Berrigan must return the draft charges in this case; charges which approximately two weeks later General Hartmann claimed to have just received.


The fact that the Legal Advisor, rather than the Chief Prosecutor, sent the Memorandum to the Chief Defense Counsel illustrates the point that the Legal Advisor failed to retain the required independence from the prosecution function and maintain his ability to provide independent, neutral, and impartial advice to the Convening Authority.

The [Military Commissions Act] prohibits attempting to coerce or unlawfully influence the professional judgment of trial or defense counsel. While the Secretary of Defense has attempted to circumvent the statutory prohibition against unlawful influence of trial counsel by regulation, he has not done so for defense counsel. When unlawful influence is directed against a defense counsel, it "affects adversely on accused’s right to effective assistance of counsel." [citations removed]

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Will Dick Finally Get Busted for His Leaks?

I am of the opinion Dick Cheney escaped any repercussions from ordering his Chief of Staff to leak a CIA NOC’s identity because Bush’s Pixie Dust gave Dick the right to insta-declassify classified material as if he were King President. I wonder, though, whether Bush has Pixie Dust somewhere that will permit Dick Cheney to ignore a gag order imposed by a Court? That’s what Colonel Morris Davis suggests Cheney may have done–leak a video purportedly showing Gitmo detainee Omar Khadr making a bomb to 60 Minutes (h/t TP).

Omar Khadr’s defense lawyers will try to find out whether U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney’s office secretly leaked a video of the detained Canadian to an American media outlet – an allegation that, if proven, would be a clear violation of court orders and further proof that the process by which Mr. Khadr is being tried is a political, not legal one, his military lawyer says.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail Monday night, Lieutenant Commander Bill Kuebler said he is trying to find out how a highly secret video showing Mr. Khadr in Afghanistan was leaked to the U.S. news program 60 Minutes. The video appears to show Mr. Khadr building a bomb.

The news program aired the footage last November.

Lt.-Cmdr Kuebler, Mr. Khadr’s top U.S. military lawyer, said he met with Colonel Morris Davis, the previous top prosecutor of military commissions – the body that is expected to try Mr. Khadr in Guantanamo Bay later this year – last week.

At the meeting, Lt.-Cmdr. Kuebler asked the Colonel where he thought the leak may have come from. In response, Lt. Cmdr. Kuebler said, Col. Davis offered the opinion that the Vice-President’s office may have been involved.


Lt.-Cmdr. Kuebler said the prosecution had wanted to play the tape in court – in view of the media – late last year, but the request was denied by a judge. A few weeks later, 60 Minutes had the report.

Given that context, Lt.-Cmdr. Kuebler said he believes the tape was leaked, and he tends to agree with Col. Davis, who told him it was unlikely a junior officer would be the one to leak it.

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Gitmo Fixer Resigns

I guess BushCo cares more about their show trials than they do having a long-time Cheney fixer.

William Haynes, one of the architects of our DOD detainee policies, announced his resignation today (h/t TPMM).

The Department of Defense announced today that General Counsel of the Department of Defense William J. Haynes II is returning to private life next month. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates said of Haynes, “I am sorry to see Jim leave the Pentagon. I have valued his legal advice and enjoyed working with him. Jim held this important post longer than anyone in history and he did so during one of America’s most trying periods. He has served the Department of Defense and the nation with distinction.” Said Haynes, “I thank the President and the Secretary of Defense for their confidence and for the opportunity to serve. I leave the Pentagon humbled and inspired by the selfless sacrifices of the men and women, uniformed and civilian, who defend our country. And, I thank their families.”

You’ll recall that Haynes is the guy who said "we can’t have acquittals" in the Gitmo show trials coming up.

"[Haynes] said these trials will be the Nuremberg of our time," recalled [Morris] Davis, referring to the Nazi tribunals in 1945, considered the model of procedural rights in the prosecution of war crimes. In response, Davis said he noted that at Nuremberg there had been some acquittals, which had lent great credibility to the proceedings.

"I said to him that if we come up short and there are some acquittals in our cases, it will at least validate the process," Davis continued. "At which point, [Haynes’s] eyes got wide and he said, ‘Wait a minute, we can’t have acquittals. If we’ve been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can’t have acquittals. We’ve got to have convictions.’"

Davis submitted his resignation on October 4, 2007, just hours after he was informed that Haynes had been put above him in the commissions’ chain of command. "Everyone has opinions," Davis says. "But when he was put above me, his opinions became orders."

Reached for comment, Defense Department spokesperson Cynthia Smith said, "The Department of Defense disputes the assertions made by Colonel Davis in this statement regarding acquittals."

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