Gitmo Panel Cooked Intel On Detainees: Army Officer
- Gitmo Panel Cooked Intel On Detainees: Army Officer
San Juan, Puerto Rico - An Army officer with a key role in the U.S.
military hearings at Guantanamo Bay says they relied on vague and
incomplete intelligence and were pressured to declare detainees "enemy
combatants," often without any specific evidence.
His affidavit, released Friday, is the first criticism by a member
of the military panels that determine whether detainees will continue
to be held.
Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham, a 26-year veteran of military
intelligence who is an Army reserve officer and a California lawyer,
said military prosecutors were provided with only "generic" material
that didn't hold up to the most basic legal challenges.
Despite repeated requests, intelligence agencies arbitrarily
refused to provide specific information that could have helped either
side in the tribunals, according to Abraham, who said he served as a
main liaison between the Combat Status Review Tribunals and those
"What were purported to be specific statements of fact lacked even
the most fundamental earmarks of objectively credible evidence,"
Abraham said in the affidavit, filed in a Washington appeals court on
behalf of a Kuwaiti detainee, Fawzi al-Odah, who is challenging his
classification as an "enemy combatant."
The Pentagon had no immediate comment, but a spokesman said
Defense Department officials were preparing a response to the affidavit.
An attorney for al-Odah, David Cynamon, said Abraham "bravely"
agreed to provide the affidavit when defense lawyers contacted him.
"It proves what we all suspected, which is that the CSRTs were a
complete sham," Cynamon said.
Matthew J. MacLean, another al-Odah lawyer, said Abraham is the
first member of a Combat Status Review Tribunal panel who has been
identified, let alone been willing to criticize the tribunals in the
"It wouldn't be quite right to say this is the most important
piece of evidence that has come out of the CSRT process, because this
is the only piece of evidence ever to come out of the CSRT process,"
MacLean said. "It's our only view into the CSRT."
Abraham said he first raised his concerns when he was on active
duty with the Defense Department agency in charge of the tribunal
process from September 2004 to March 2005 and felt the issues were not
adequately addressed. He said he decided his only recourse was to
submit the affidavit.
"I pointed out nothing less than facts, facts that can and should
be fixed," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from
his office in Newport Beach, Calif.
The 46-year-old lawyer, who remains in the reserves, said he
believe he had a responsibility to point out that officers "did not
have the proper tools" to determine whether a detainee was in fact an
"I take very seriously my responsibility, my duties as a citizen,"
Cynamon said he fears the officer's military future could be in
jeopardy. "For him to do this was a courageous thing but it's probably
an assurance of career suicide," he said.
The military held Combatant Status Review Tribunals for 558
detainees at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay in 2004 and 2005,
with handcuffed detainees appearing before panels made up of three
officers. Detainees had a military "personal representative" instead
of a defense attorney, and all but 38 were determined to be "enemy
Abraham was asked to serve on one of the panels, and he said its
members felt strong pressure to find against the detainee, saying
there was "intensive scrutiny" when they declared a prisoner not to be
an enemy combatant. When his panel decided the detainee wasn't an
"enemy combatant," they were ordered to reconvene to hear more
evidence, he said.
Ultimately, his panel held its ground, and he was never asked to
participate in another tribunal, he said.
In April, the Supreme Court declined to review whether Guantanamo
Bay detainees may go to federal court to challenge their indefinite
Lawyers for the detainees have asked the justices to reconsider
and included Abraham's affidavit in a filing made Friday. The
administration opposes the request.
Associated Press writer Matt Apuzzo in Washington contributed to
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