Monday, August 1, 2005

Rule Models

One of the things we’re fighting for in the global war on terror struggle against violent extremism (GSAVE) is the basic rule of law and the idea that every person accused of a crime would be granted a fair trail based on the evidence. It’s enshrined in our Constitution and it’s part of what we’re supposed to be bringing to the rest of the world by setting a fine example of democracy and freedom. So it would seem that if you’re going to put people on trial — especially those who have been accused of crimes in the GSAVE — they would be shown that our way of justice is better than theirs and that no matter what they’ve done we will grant them a fair trial.

Not so fast.

From the New York Times:

As the Pentagon was making its final preparations to begin war crimes trials against four detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, two senior prosecutors complained in confidential messages last year that the trial system had been secretly arranged to improve the chance of conviction and to deprive defendants of material that could prove their innocence.

The electronic messages, obtained by The New York Times, reveal a bitter dispute within the military legal community over the fairness of the system at a time when the Bush administration and the Pentagon were eager to have the military commissions, the first for the United States since the aftermath of World War II, be seen as just at home and abroad.

During the same time period, military defense lawyers were publicly criticizing the system, but senior officials dismissed their complaints and said they were contrived as part of the efforts to help their clients.

The defense lawyers’ complaints and those of outside groups like the American Bar Association were, it is now clear, simultaneously being echoed in confidential messages by the two high-ranking prosecutors whose cases would, if anything, benefit from any slanting of the process.

In a separate e-mail message, the chief prosecutor flatly rejected the accusations by his subordinates. And a military review supported him.

[…]

Colonel Borch, who has since retired from the military, sent his own e-mail message to Captain Carr and Major Preston on March 15, 2004, with copies to several other members of the prosecution team the same day, outlining his response.

In his message, Colonel Borch said he had great respect and admiration for Captain Carr and Major Preston. But their accusations, he said, were “monstrous lies.” He did not, however, address any specifics, like stacking the panel.

“I am convinced to the depth of my soul that all of us on the prosecution team are truly dedicated to the mission of the office of military commissions,” he wrote, “and that no one on the team has anything but the highest ethical principles.”

It would seem that the biggest fear the government has is that some of the people they’re holding in Gitmo are innocent. That wouldn’t do. After all, we caught them. They must have been up to no good. “Well, they were terrorists! Giving them a fair trial is too good for them! Don’t coddle them! Take them out and hang them!” Okay, go back and read the first paragraph. We’re supposed to be the role model for freedom and democracy around the world, according to — gasp! — President Bush.

Rigged trials and secret sealed evidence is the stuff of dictatorships, and if that’s what comes out of this GSAVE, we’re no better than the enemy we’re fighting.