Leaked E-Mails Say Guantanamo Trials Rigged
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Monday, August 1, 2005
Leaked E-Mails Say Guantanamo Trials Rigged
by Leigh Sales
Leaked emails from two former prosecutors claim the military
commissions set up to try detainees at Guantanamo Bay are
rigged, fraudulent, and thin on evidence against the accused.
Two emails, which have been obtained by the ABC, were sent
to supervisors in the Office of Military Commissions in
March of last year -- three months before Australian
detainee David Hicks was charged and five months before his
The first email is from prosecutor Major Robert Preston to
Maj Preston writes that the process is perpetrating a fraud
on the American people, and that the cases being pursued are
"I consider the insistence on pressing ahead with cases that
would be marginal even if properly prepared to be a severe
threat to the reputation of the military justice system and
even a fraud on the American people," Maj Preston wrote.
"Surely they don't expect that this fairly half-arsed effort
is all that we have been able to put together after all this
Maj Preston says he cannot continue to work on a process he
considers morally, ethically and professionally intolerable.
"I lie awake worrying about this every night," he wrote.
"I find it almost impossible to focus on my part of mission.
"After all, writing a motion saying that the process will be
full and fair when you don't really believe it is kind of
hard, particularly when you want to call yourself an officer
Maj Preston was transferred out of the Office of Military
Commissions less than a month later.
The second email is written by another prosecutor, Captain
John Carr, who also ended up leaving the department.
Capt Carr says the commissions appear to be rigged.
"When I volunteered to assist with this process and was
assigned to this office, I expected there would at least be
a minimal effort to establish a fair process and diligently
prepare cases against significant accused," he wrote.
"Instead, I find a half-hearted and disorganised effort by a
skeleton group of relatively inexperienced attorneys to
prosecute fairly low-level accused in a process that appears
to be rigged."
Capt Carr says that the prosecutors have been told by the
chief prosecutor that the panel sitting in judgment on the
cases would be handpicked to ensure convictions.
"You have repeatedly said to the office that the military
panel will be handpicked and will not acquit these detainees
and that we only needed to worry about building a record for
the review panel," he said.
David Hicks' defence lawyer, Major Michael Mori, says the
documents are "highly significant".
"For the first time, we're seeing that concerns about the
fairness of the military commissions extend to the heart of
the process," Maj Mori said.
David Hicks's father, Terry, says the latest revelations
confirm what he has suspected all along.
"These commissions weren't set up to release people," he said.
"These commissions were set up to make sure they were
prosecuted and get the time that they give them, and the
other thing we've said all along, that we believe that this
system has been rigged as they call it."
But the Pentagon's Brigadier General Thomas Hemingway, who
is a legal advisor to the military commissions, says an
investigation has found the comments are based on
miscommunication, misunderstanding and personality conflicts.
He says changes have been made in the prosecutors' office.
"I think what we did is work on some restructuring in the
office, there was some changes in the way cases were
processed, but we found no evidence of any criminal
misconduct, we found no evidence of any ethical violations,"
Brig Gen Hemingway says he does not know if the Australian
Government has been informed of the claims.
"I can't tell you whether they were informed formally, I
have so many contacts with representatives of your embassy
here in town, the exchange of information has certainly been
constant, open and significant but whether or not we got
down into the details of this, I really have no
recollection," he said.
"We certainly would have shared it with them if we found
that there was any evidence of misconduct in the office of
the prosecution, but we did not find any such evidence."
Brig Gen Hemingway denies that the cases being prosecuted
"All of the cases I have recommended that the appointing
authority refer to trial, are cases upon which I thought
there was sufficient evidence to warrant sending to a
fact-finder," he said.
"In each of the four cases which have been referred, the
appointing authority John Alterburgh made an independent
determination that the evidence was sufficient to warrant
He also denies that the commission panels are being
hand-picked to insure detainees are not acquitted.
"I can tell you that any such assertion is clearly
incorrect," he said.
"There is absolutely no evidence that it is rigged."
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