Tuesday, April 29, 2008

We can't have acquittals

One of the mysteries of the Bush kleptocracy has been their knack of keeping almost everyone silent. Those bureaucrats and political appointees that have spoken up (fired US Attorney Iglesias, for example) have created a momentary splash, but while the media has reported their story, there has been little follow-up. Congressional attempts to find out what is going on have been met by the administration's stonewall strategy that Congress lacks the will to challenge.

The latest to speak up, former chief prosecutor for terrorism cases Morris Davis has made even more sensational charges, and under oath:

Davis said he wants to wait until the cases -- and the military commissions system -- have a more solid legal footing. He also said that Defense Department general counsel William J. Haynes II, who announced his retirement in February, once bristled at the suggestion that some defendants could be acquitted, an outcome that Davis said would give the process added legitimacy.

"He said, 'We can't have acquittals,' " Davis said under questioning from Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer, the military counsel who represents Hamdan. " 'We've been holding these guys for years. How can we explain acquittals? We have to have convictions.' "

Davis also decried as unethical a decision by top military officials to allow the use of evidence obtained by coercive interrogation techniques. He said Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann, the legal adviser to the top military official overseeing the commissions process, was improperly willing to use evidence derived from waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning. "To allow or direct a prosecutor to come into the courtroom and offer evidence they felt was torture, it puts a prosecutor in an ethical bind," Davis testified. But he said Hartmann replied that "everything was fair game -- let the judge sort it out."

He also said Hartmann took "micromanagement" of the prosecution effort to a new level and treated prosecutors with "cruelty and maltreatment." Hartmann, he said, was trying to take over the prosecutor's role, compromising the independence of the Office of Military Commissions, which decides which cases to bring and what evidence to use.

The show trial is nothing new, not even in the good ol' USA, but the mastery of the form as practiced by the Soviet Union, with tortured prisoners reading their confessions to the judges, hasn't been this nation's style. Hopefully, we can thank Col. Davis that it won't be yet. But, if the current crop of kleptocrats is not eradicated root and branch, it is only a matter of time.


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