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Tribunals Didn't Rely on Torture

Monday, December 13, 2004; Page A20

The Dec. 3 news story "Evidence Gained by Torture Allowed" ignored an observation by government counsel that the United States is a party to the Geneva Convention against torture and neither practices nor condones torture.

First, not one case of detainee torture at Guantanamo Bay has been documented. The few substantiated cases of inappropriate treatment identified by the commission headed by former defense secretary James R. Schlesinger and other investigations are a matter of public record, as is the resulting punishment of the perpetrators. When other allegations surfaced during combatant status review tribunals, they were for- warded to proper authorities for investigation.

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Second, contrary to the article's insinuation that the tribunals rely on possibly tainted detainee statements, panel members independently assess the quality of all the evidence before them. As neutral fact-finders, they have the responsibility to decide how much weight to give the evidence and they understand that information obtained through improper coercion may be unreliable.

Third, none of the 194 tribunal cases completed to date relied solely on any one piece of information, including detainee interrogations. Determinations typically are based on multiple pieces of evidence, including, in some cases, the voluntary testimony of the detainee before the tribunal.

True, the colloquy with U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon involved whether any provision of law prevents military commanders from relying on information of questionable provenance in making deci- sions concerning the national defense. This answer is both obvious and important. But The Post failed to convey the larger context of the courtroom discussion and falsely implied that the tribunal process relies on evidence obtained through torture.


General Counsel

U.S. Navy


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