Friday, January 30, 2009

Army Judge Defies Obama, Won't Stop Gitmo Court

Just when you thought all's well, Gitmo's gonna be closed, we'll stop the insanity that Bush started with extralegal terror trials, torture, and "sexy" terrorist executions-to-be, and habeus corpus and the Army Field Manual will rule the rust, we hit a decidedly unexecutive bump in the road.

Obama issued, after all, an executive order freezing all Gitmo trials until next month, in order to review all the Geneva Convention-bashing stuff that may/may not have been going down. But now, an Army judge has defied those orders. Point blank. Just like that: "I'm not gonna do it, dude."

The chief judge of the Guantánamo war court Thursday spurned a presidential request to freeze the military commissions, and said he would go forward with next month's hearing for an alleged USS Cole bomber in a capital terror case.

Abd el Rahim al Nashiri, a Saudi Arabian, faces a Feb. 9 arraignment on terror charges he helped orchestrate the October 2000 al Qaeda suicide bombing that killed 17 U.S. sailors off the coast of Yemen.

Nashiri is now held at the remote U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba after years of CIA detention in which the agency has confirmed it waterboarded him in secret custody.

Yeah. and to make matters worse, this particular suspect has been tortured. Waterboarded. They're up front about it. So how did the judge justify defying a Presidential directive?

"On its face, the request to delay the arraignment is not reasonable," the judge, Army Col. James Pohl, wrote in his three-page ruling denying a prosecution request to delay Nashiri's first court appearance.

Wait! I thought President Obama was, like, the Commander-in-Chief. And this Army judge is, like, in the military, and under, like, his command.

And, oh, the judge added this remark:
"The public interest in a speedy trial will be harmed by the delay in the arraignment," Pohl also wrote.

So, let's get this straight. A directive from the Commander-in-Chief can be disobeyed because (a) a judge thinks it's "not reasonable", and (b) the judge thinks it will "harm" the "public interest". So the judge is making decisions to override the President. I wonder what this judge would say had someone done the same in defiance of, say, a Bush directive? Sounds very, very political to me...

And I'm not the only one surprised.
The decision stunned officials at the Department of Defense and White House, which had just begun to grapple with Obama's order to freeze the war court and empty the prison camps within a year.

"The Department of Defense is currently reviewing Judge Pohl's ruling," said Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon. ``We will be in compliance with the president's orders regarding Guantánamo."

It seems that the best way to comply with the freeze order is to dismiss the charges.
In other cases, the prosecutor has withdrawn the charges, without prejudice, meaning a new case could be brought at a later date.

Dismissing charges in a capital terror case may be hard to stomach for those dedicated to the GWOT. But judges are supposed to be "impartial."

Thursday, ACLU executive director Anthony Romero called the judge's order the work of Bush administration "hangers on" at the Defense Department who he accused of seeking to ``undercut President Obama's unequivocal statement to shut Guantánamo and halt the military commissions."

Pohl's order, he said, 'raises serious questions about whether Secretary of Defense (Robert) Gates is the `New Gates' or is the same old Gates under a new president. Gates certainly has the power to put a halt to these proceedings, and his lack of action demonstrates that we may have more of the same - rather than the change we were promised."

Retired U.S. Navy Cmdr. Kurt Lippold, who was commander of the Cole at the time of the attack, countered that the judge's ruling was ``a victory for the 17 families of the sailors who lost their lives on the USS Cole over eight years ago."

So it is really about politics. But it's also about avenging the Cole. Obama should make clear, publicly, that the freeze does not mean these guys will not face trial, just under new, unchallengeable, conditions. As it stands, what with the accused having been coerced under torture, it might be a more successful prosecution, hence also revenge for those who desire it, to be done the right way, as ordered by... the Commander-in-Chief.

Ah, the rule of law... those Bushies just can't let go...


Ted said...


Omyma said...

Ted, this is crazy! Don't you think he's already passed all conceivable "eligibility" tests?? The Constitution is not a hack job open to every oddball interpretation. If this were an issue, the story above would be the least of our worries.

Seane-Anna said...

Judge James Pohl is my boyfriend! I hope he keeps on defying the Sultan of Surrender. And hell yeah this is about avenging the USS Cole! Or do dead Americans not register on your radar screen? And so what if Ramzi El Kaboom, or whatever the hell his name is, was waterboarded. He was treated a hell of a lot better at Gitmo than he would've been in one of Saddam's or Al Quaeda's prisons. If you lefties are soooooo anti-torture why don't you ever rail against the horrors committed by America's enemies?

Omyma said...

Interesting indeed, Seane-Anna. The "Sultan of Surrender" never said this case won't be prosecuted. Just that it will be done without violating the Geneva Conventions or international law. When you blindly violate international laws, guess what? Other countries say it's open season to violate international law against who??? Us, the supposed "upholders" of international law who decided to go renegade. And who will then get tortured? The Americans who are in my radar screen - but more of them, and farther down the road.

The issue is not simply whose treatment of accused terrorists is worse. The issue is adhering to laws we ourselves advocated very strongly in order to protect our own citizens abroad - and there's a lot of those - in order to make the laws more, shall we say, enforceable.

And about revenge: you want to be sure that you take it against the right guy. That's why there's trials. When the trial goes bonkers, it may just get thrown out. The "Sultan of Surrender" doesn't want that to happen. Maybe this guy is guilty. But another one was picked up as a child! He was drugged and forced to confess. His father made him throw a grenade or something. Do you want him to get tortured to take avenge some deaths that were actually caused by someone else?

Justice requires a cool head, not a hot temper. Sometimes it looks like it's not getting enough vengeance. But our country isn't about vengeance only - it's about justice and democracy. Vengeance alone? That's al-Qaeda's specialty. Mindless vengeance. The grave they're digging, btw, is their own.