Military Lawyer Questions Guantanamo Hearings

Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham, a military lawyer in the Army Reserve, has filed an affidavit casting doubt on the fairness of hearings that determine whether detainees will be held at the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Abraham, a 26-year veteran of military intelligence, tells Debbie Elliott that personnel were pressured into declaring detainees "enemy combatants" on the basis of vague or incomplete evidence.

In September 2004, he was on active duty and assigned to the Defense Department office that oversees the Combatant Status Review Tribunals. The tribunals allow the government to hold terrorism suspects indefinitely at Guantanamo without charging them with a crime.

In an affidavit made public Friday, Abraham described a tribunal process that relied on limited and generic intelligence. He said officers were pressured to declare detainees "enemy combatants."

The Pentagon says Abraham was not in a position to have a complete view of the process, which it deems fair and robust.

Abraham's affidavit, submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court, is the first criticism by a member of the military panels that determine whether detainees will continue to be held.

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 the intelligence agencies.

"What were purported to be specific statements of fact lacked even the most fundamental earmarks of objectively credible evidence," Abraham said in the affidavit submitted on behalf of a Kuwaiti detainee, Fawzi al-Odah, who is challenging his classification as an "enemy combatant."

Abraham's affidavit "proves what we all suspected, which is that the CSRTs were a complete sham," said a lawyer for al-Odah, David Cynamon.

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.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.