I’ve mentioned it before, and I will certainly mention it again, the Knight Ridder team, since acquired by McClatchy Newspapers practiced some stand-up journalism with respect to Iraq, asked some tough questions, and did not fall for the ginned up case for war in Iraq as most other news institutions did. (See generally: The Reporting Team That Got Iraq Right).
The tradition continues with Tom Lasseter’s report on the legal team responsible for the framework of detainee imprisonment in Afghanistan and Guantanamo. (A framework that has been rejected recently, at least with respect to the attempted evisceration of habeas corpus rights). This is not policy that comes from military minds who think the detainment framework is a good idea; rather it came from five lawyers high up in the Bush administration: 1) David Addington – Cheney’s chief of staff; 2) Alberto Gonzales – Disgraced, memory-challenged former Attorney General and White House counsel; 3) John “Torture Memo” Yoo – former member of the Office of Legal Counsel; 4) William J. Haynes II – Former Pentagon general counsel; suspected of wanting the military tribunals to operate as kangaroo courts and who abruptly resigned earlier this year; and 5) Timothy Flanigan – former deputy to Gonzales who resigned amidst mounting questions over his role in drafting the administration’s torture policy.
Their attempts to grab power for the President and generally avoid accountability appears to have made a hash of things:
Now it appears that reinterpreting the law to lift legal protections for detainees could backfire. On May 13, the Pentagon announced that it was dropping all charges against Mohammed al Qahtani, a Saudi man held in Guantanamo who’s accused of planning to take part in the 9-11 attacks as the “20th hijacker.”
The official overseeing the case, Susan J. Crawford, gave no reason for the move, which followed the leak of an interrogation log that detailed harsh attempts at Guantanamo to break Qahtani mentally. Among the methods used were forcing him to act like a dog, putting women’s underwear on his head, keeping him in stress positions and accusing him of homosexuality.
Military lawyers attempted to warn the five; dubbed “The War Counsel” but were shut out:
The military legal community complained, to little avail, that the policies hatched with the consent of Bush, Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld were replacing decades of U.S. military policy on handling detainees.
When they protested, the War Council shut them out.
“We were absolutely marginalized,” said Donald J. Guter, a rear admiral who served as the Navy’s judge advocate general from 2000 to 2002. “I think it was intentional, because so many military JAGs spoke up about the rule of law.”
And, it goes on and on:
“What they were looking for was the minimum due process that we could get away with,” said Guter, who’s now the dean of Duquesne University’s law school. “I felt like they knew the answer they wanted to hear.”
Romig recalled tense discussions with Yoo in November and December 2001 about setting up military commissions to try detainees.
“John Yoo wanted to use military commissions in the manner they were used in the Indian wars,” Romig said. “I looked at him and said, ‘You know, that was 100-and-something years ago. You’re out of your mind; we’re talking about the law.’ ”
The military commissions that the U.S. used against Native Americans during the mid-19th century were often ad hoc and frequently resulted in natives being hanged or shot.
“As they viewed it, due process is legal mumbo jumbo,” said Romig, who’s now the dean of Washburn University’s law school. “They wanted to get them, get the facts and convict them. … If you’re caught as a terrorist, you’re presumed guilty and you have to prove you’re innocent. It was crazy.”
I just want to quote the whole damned article, which isn’t appropriate, so just go read the whole thing. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, I’m not a religious guy. But, I probably get closest to idolatry with respect to my reverence for the Constitution. When you look at history and look at how miserable societies were generally with a dog-eat-dog sensibility that stemmed in large part from might equaling right, you start to realize how amazing our Constitution and system of justice has been. Sure, you can point to any number of bad results, but over all, the civilizing effect of our respect for the rule of law has been astounding. Then you have guys like Yoo and Addington who are willing to piss it all away for momentary (and largely illusory) gain. If I’m wrong about this religion thing, there’s a special place in hell for people like that.