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Gitmo trials tied to '08 campaign

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    Lawyer: Gitmo trials pegged to 08 campaign BY CAROL ROSENBERG - crosenberg @ MiamiHerald.com Fri, Mar. 28, 2008
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 3, 2008
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      Lawyer: Gitmo trials pegged to '08 campaign
      BY CAROL ROSENBERG - crosenberg @ MiamiHerald.com
      Fri, Mar. 28, 2008
      http://www.miamiherald.com/guantanamo/story/474196.html


      Dotty England and her husband Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon
      England stand during the National Anthem as Navy Cmdr F. Curtis Jones
      salutes in the background during christening ceremonies of the Navy's
      ship USS New York at Northrop Grumman shipyard in Avondale, La., March
      1, 2008. Approximately 7.5 tons of steel recovered from the World
      Trade Center are cast in the bow stem of the ship. The New York will
      be officially commissioned in New York City in the fall of 2009. Jones
      is the prospective commander of the New York and Dorthy England will
      serve as the ship's sponsor.

      Dotty England and her husband Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon
      England stand during the National Anthem as Navy Cmdr F. Curtis Jones
      salutes in the background during christening ceremonies of the Navy's
      ship USS New York at Northrop Grumman shipyard in Avondale, La., March
      1, 2008. Approximately 7.5 tons of steel recovered from the World
      Trade Center are cast in the bow stem of the ship. The New York will
      be officially commissioned in New York City in the fall of 2009. Jones
      is the prospective commander of the New York and Dorthy England will
      serve as the ship's sponsor.

      The Navy lawyer for Osama bin Laden's driver argues in a Guantánamo
      military commissions motion that senior Pentagon officials are
      orchestrating war crimes prosecutions for the 2008 campaign.

      The Pentagon declined late Friday to address the defense lawyer's
      allegations, noting that the matter is under litigation.

      The brief filed Thursday by Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer directly
      challenged the integrity of President Bush's war court.

      Notably, it describes a Sept. 29, 2006, meeting at the Pentagon in
      which Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, a veteran White House
      appointee, asked lawyers to consider Sept. 11, 2001, prosecutions in
      light of the campaign.

      ''We need to think about charging some of the high-value detainees
      because there could be strategic political value to charging some of
      these detainees before the election,'' England is quoted as saying.
      A senior Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, declined to address the
      specifics, saying ``the trial process will surface the facts in this
      case.''

      ''It has always been everybody's desire to move as swiftly and
      deliberately as possible to conduct military commissions,'' he added.
      ``But I can tell you emphatically that leadership has always been
      extraordinarily careful to guard against any unlawful command influence.''

      The brief quotes England as a stipulation of fact and cites other
      examples of alleged political interference, which Mizer argues makes
      it impossible for Salim Hamdan, 37, to have a fair trial.

      It asks the judge, Navy Capt. Keith Allred, to dismiss the case
      against Hamdan as an alleged 9/11 co-conspirator on the grounds that
      Bush administration leadership exercises ``unlawful command influence.''

      Allred has set hearings at Guantánamo for April 30.

      Hamdan is the former Afghanistan driver of al Qaeda leader Osama bin
      Laden whose lawyers challenged an earlier war court format to the U.S.
      Supreme Court, which struck down the war court as unconstitutional.
      Pentagon prosecutors call him a war criminal for driving bin Laden in
      Afghanistan before and during the 9/11 attacks and allegedly working
      as his sometimes bodyguard. Even if he didn't help plot the suicide
      attacks, they argue, he is an al Qaeda co-conspirator.

      As described the Hamdan brief, the England meeting came three weeks
      after President Bush disclosed in a live address that he had ordered
      the CIA to transfer ''high-value detainees'' from years of secret
      custody to Guantánamo for trial.

      Bush also disclosed that the CIA used ''an alternative set of
      procedures'' to interrogate the men into confessing -- since revealed
      by the CIA director, Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, to include
      waterboarding.

      They included reputed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four
      other men against whom the Pentagon prosecutor swore out death-penalty
      charges in a complex Sept. 11, 2001, conspiracy case on Feb. 11.

      The proposed 90-page charge sheets list the names of 2,973 victims of
      the 9/11 attacks. The men have not been formally charged. Instead they
      are in the control of a White House appointee, Susan J. Crawford,
      whose title is the war court's convening authority, and her legal
      advisor, Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann.

      Under the law governing the commissions, the alleged 9/11 conspirators
      would formally be charged 30 days after Crawford approves them.
      That currently leaves a seven-month window during the 2008 election
      campaign.

      An expert on military justice, attorney Eugene Fidell, said the Hamdan
      motion brings into sharp relief the problem of Pentagon appointees'
      supervisory relationship to the war court.

      ''It scrambles relationships that ought to be kept clear,'' said
      Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice.

      The quote attributed to England is ``enough that you'd want to hold an
      evidentiary hearing about it, with live witnesses. It does strike me
      as disturbing for there to be even a whiff of political considerations
      in what should be a quasi-judicial determination.''

      England is a two-term White House appointee. He joined the Bush
      administration in 2001 as Navy secretary, briefly served as deputy
      Homeland Security secretary and then returned to the Pentagon, where
      he supervised the prison camps' administrative processes.

      Crawford was a Republican attorney appointee in the Pentagon when Vice
      President Dick Cheney was defense secretary.

      Hamdan's military lawyer argues that standard military justice has
      barriers that separate various functions, which he contends Pentagon
      appointees have crossed in the war court.

      In April the defense team plans to call the former chief prosecutor,
      Air Force Col. Morris Davis, who recounted the England remark since
      submitting his resignation, claiming political interference.
      Davis, who had approved charges against Hamdan, served as former chief
      Pentagon prosecutor until he resigned over what he called political
      interference by general counsel William J. Haynes.

      Haynes has since quit.

      They also want to call as a witness the deputy chief defense counsel,
      a retired Army lawyer named Michael Berrigan, who, according to the
      filing, was mistakingly sent a draft copy of 9/11 conspiracy charges
      being prepared by the prosecution.

      In the filing, Hartmann, the legal advisor, orders Berrigan to return
      it, which the defense team claims illustrates the muddied role of the
      legal advisor.

      He supervised the prosecution, announced the 9/11 conspiracy charges
      on Feb. 11, then said he would evaluate them independently and
      recommend to Crawford how to proceed.

      The Mizer motion is also the latest attack on the legitimacy of
      war-court prosecutions by a variety of feisty uniformed defense
      attorneys, who have doggedly used civilian courts and courted public
      opinion against the process since the earliest days.

      Mizer sent the brief directly to reporters for major news
      organizations, rather than leave it to the Office of Military
      Commissions to post it on a Pentagon website.

      The Pentagon has been releasing motions for the public to read after
      they have been argued -- and ruled on by the judge.

      With delays in other cases, the Hamdan case is now on track to be the
      first full-blown U.S. war-crimes tribunal since World War II.

      The current time frame would put the trial before the Supreme Court
      rules on an overarching detainee rights case in June.

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