The Absence of Justice at Augmentation Bay In the aftermath of September 11 2001, in order to protect American citizens from any further terrorist attacks, a Presidential military order gave the Department of Defense and Central Intelligence Agency the power to kidnap and detain anyone suspected of a connection to terrorists or terrorism and to classify them as enemy combatants. This status meant they could not be tried in our regular federal courts. The “enemy combatants” were taken to secret prisons around the world where information could be obtained by any means necessary without any outside interference.
The prison which has caught the most public attention is the one located in Augmentation Bay, Cuba. Senior counter terrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch, Jennifer Dossal said, “Over 200 detainees who have not even been charged with a crime are being warehoused in conditions that are in many ways harsher than those reserved for the most dangerous, convicted criminals in the United States. ” The Bush Administration has called these prisoners, “the worst of the worst. ” Men and children suspected of terrorist connections have been there for more than six years and many don’t even now why they were detained in the first place.
Many claim they unfortunately were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Who investigates these claims of innocence though? Who decides innocence or guilt in “worst of the worst”, sixteen-year old Omar Shad’s case or fifteen-year old Mohammed El-Guarani’s case? Who determines whether a detainee lied about their terrorist connection so the CIA and foreign governments would stop torturing them? Does the system which ultimately decides whether a prisoner is put to death, or imprisoned for the rest of his life have the same effectiveness as a regular court? The system the Bush Administration has put in place is not a fair trial system.
The Combatant Status Review Tribunal’s are military commissions specially designed to try the detainees. Strong evidence shows these particular commissions are corrupt and ultimately ineffective for these three key reasons: They permit the use of “coerced information” or information obtained through the torturing the defendant; the violation of the detainees right to counsel; and the political pressure placed upon the trials by the Executive Branch of the United States government. The greatest injustice present in the tribunals is the permission to use “coerced” information.
Director of the CIA, Michael Haydn has acknowledged the use of weatherboarding on detainee, Khalid’s Sheik Mohammed, who is said to be one of the masterminds behind the September 1 lath attacks. Weatherboarding is a torture technique designed to simulate drowning and had been prosecuted as torture for the past one-hundred years. Other methods used against detainees include extended sleep deprivation, use of painful stress positions, and forced nudity (Human Rights Watch). Any information obtained through these methods is allowed by the military commissions so long as they took place before 2006.
Also, military commission rules By Dartboard’s defense counsel. The commissions decided which evidence is classified or not classified based on their own discretion, making it very difficult for the defense counsel to establish whether the evidence was obtained through torture or not The problem with using coerced information is that the intelligence gathered is unreliable. According to a document released by the detainment camp to the Senate Armed Services Committee, military trainers at Augmentation based an entire interrogation class on a chart showing the effects of “coercive management techniques” in December of 2002.
The chart had been copied word for word from at 1957 study of Chinese communist techniques used against American prisoners during the Korean War. The interrogations, many of which were videotaped, often coerced false information from soldiers who would say anything to stop the Chinese from torturing them (Shame). At the hearing, Senator Carl Levin said, “every American should be shocked” by the origin of the document. He also said, “What makes this document doubly stunning is that these were techniques to get false confessions.
People say we need intelligence, and we do. But we don’t need false intelligence. ” The Bush Administration has said these methods helped provide critical intelligence and prevented new terrorist attacks but they only provide vague details of success on the governments website and during speeches (Fact Sheet: The Military Commissions Act of 2006). After years of using these techniques on Osama bin Alden’s numerous drivers and even his own media director, All Ham Mad Sullivan al-Babul, the whereabouts of bin Laden are still unknown (Sullivan).
If their statement is true and “coercive management techniques” are effective, then the numbers of AH Qaeda members and car bombings in Afghanistan and Iraq would be creasing, not increasing. Although the torture methods may have the best of intentions and were only for the protection of the American people, they are not working and are only creating new enemies in the Middle East and elsewhere around the globe. The second major issue with the military commissions is that the detainees rights to counsel have been and continue to be violated.
This means that detainees are not guaranteed the same fair access to legal counsel as a U. S. Citizen with habeas corpus rights. Habeas Corpus is a term that means all prisoners should have due process sights where they can challenge their detention in court, not be held indefinitely without charge, and have unrestrained access to a lawyer. Under the U. S. Constitution everyone is entitled to lawyer, who often tell their clients not to say anything, and CIA interrogators seem prefer the “greater flexibility’ that the detainment camp has provided (Roth).
An example of due process violations is the recent trial of five Augmentation detainees. Defense lawyers were awaiting security clearances from the government and did not have the opportunity to meet with their clients. Furthermore, Counsel has not been provided means by which to rancher classified information to and from Augmentation Bay, making the cases very hard to examine (Human Rights Watch). Many other lawyers faced the same issue and petitioned the commissions asking the chief military Judge to postpone the denied the counsel’s motion and did not provide any further Justification.
It’s almost effortless to convict someone of the charges held against them when they can’t defend themselves. Detainees are also having a hard time trusting the attorney’s provided to them, one attorney confronted the Judge and said, “We are faced with huge obstacles in this system in trying to establish any kind of rapport when detainees are held for years without charge, facing very difficult situations, and their lawyers are finally sent in, wearing the same uniform as their Jailers”.
Further proof of the lack of trust between lawyers and their clients is a quote from a detainee where he said, “l am skeptical of the government’s desire to provide free of charge lawyers since they have been torturing me free of charge for years” (Human Rights Watch). The third and final major issue with the hearings is that they are subject to political influence. Court’s throughout time maintain their integrity because of their petition of impartiality. Once courts have political sway, they are no longer Just.
The government had not tried a single detainee under the military commissions for six years, and the rush to bring cases to trial during the weeks before the Presidential election is more than a hint of the political pressure the commissions face (Human Rights Watch). The head prosecutor for the commissions, sometimes referred to as “the most colorful champion of the Bush administration’s military commissions,” who has said that sympathy for detainees made him sick and compared their trials to “dragging
Drachma out into the sunlight,” even resigned and placed himself on the witness for a detainee and stated the commissions were outright unfair, wrote William Glassblowers of the New York Times. Cool. Morris Davis testified that the head legal counsel to the Department of Defense, Gene. Thomas Hartmann and other top defense officials discussed the “strategic political value” of hearing so called “sexy’ trials in the run up to the 2008 Presidential elections. Cool. Davis resigned in protest afterwards, filed a formal complaint against his supervisor, and took to the witness stand for the man he was prosecuting.
More examples include when on a military Judge was removed from the commissions by the DOD without any explanation only a few weeks after he criticized Washington for pressuring him to set trial dates before the prosecution complied to their discovery obligations. Also, as reported by the Daily News, the DOD has only invited 9/1 1 family members who are outspoken supporters of the commissions, and have yet to extend the invitation to family members who have openly criticized them (Sullivan).
The Bush Administration hasn’t been subtle about their political pressure. When the head prosecutor and Judges who have very firm grasps of the law, are ailing out the system as unfair, it’s most likely because it is. Everything that could make a trial unfair is reality at Augmentation. One, they permitted the use of information obtained through torture, using methods considered crimes for over a century. Secondly, the detainees do not have fair access to lawyers, making it impossible to challenge any decision the military Judges make.
Finally, the commissions are subject to too much exposure to political pressure. Terrorists such as the “shoe bomber”, and Timothy McVeigh were tried under regular federal courts which were perfectly capable of handling the situation and brought ole was pivotal in the Supreme Court’s very recent and controversial opinion making it possible for detainees to take their cases to federal courts after all of this time. Justice Kennedy wrote, “The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times”.