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.
[. . .]
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.
[. . .]
Among the striking statements in the prosecutors' messages was an assertion by one that the chief prosecutor had told his subordinates that the members of the military commission that would try the first four defendants would be "handpicked" to ensure that all would be convicted.
The same officer, Capt. John Carr of the Air Force, also said in his message that he had been told that any exculpatory evidence - information that could help the detainees mount a defense in their cases - would probably exist only in the 10 percent of documents being withheld by the Central Intelligence Agency for security reasons.
Captain Carr's e-mail message also said that some evidence that at least one of the four defendants had been brutalized had been lost and that other evidence on the same issue had been withheld. The March 15, 2004, message was addressed to Col. Frederick L. Borch, the chief prosecutor who was the object of much of Captain Carr's criticism.
The above is from Neil A. Lewis' "Two Prosecutors Faulted Trials for Detainees" in this morning's New York Times. It's the spotlight, the one story you need to know about if you know nothing else in the Times this morning. (And the topic was noted last night by Skip in our entry on what was being reported outside the US mainstream media. Click here for reactions in Australia.)
Martha e-mails to note this from Danny Schechter's News Dissector:
WAR POWERS: DECIDING TO USE FORCE ABROAD
The process of authorizing the decision to go to war is reexamined in a new report by a bipartisan commission which generally concludes that Congress must be more assertive in exercising its constitutionally mandated role.
"Congress must perform its constitutional duty to reach a deliberate and transparent collective judgment about initiating the use of force abroad except when force is used for a limited range of defensive purposes."
See "Deciding to Use Force Abroad: War Powers in a System of Checks and Balances," The Constitution Project, June 29, 2005:
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