Army Officer Says Gitmo Panels Flawed
Saturday, June 23, 2007; 11:04 AM
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- An Army officer who played a key role in the "enemy combatant" hearings at Guantanamo Bay says tribunal members relied on vague and incomplete intelligence while being pressured to rule against detainees, often without any specific evidence.
His affidavit, submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court and released Friday, is the first criticism by a member of the military panels that determine whether detainees will continue to be held.
Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham, a 26-year veteran of military intelligence who is an Army reserve officer and a California lawyer, said military prosecutors were provided with only "generic" material that didn't hold up to the most basic legal challenges.
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.
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Chito Peppler, defended the process of determining which detainees should be held, saying the "procedures afford greater protection for wartime status determinations than any nation has ever before provided."
"Lt. Col. Abraham provides his opinion and perspective on the CSRT process. We disagree with his characterizations," Peppler said. "Lt. Col. Abraham was not in a position to have a complete view of the CSRT process."
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.
"I pointed out nothing less than facts, facts that can and should be fixed," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his office in Newport Beach, Calif.
The 46-year-old lawyer, who remains in the reserves, said he believe he had a responsibility to point out that officers "did not have the proper tools" to determine whether a detainee was in fact an enemy combatant.
"I take very seriously my responsibility, my duties as a citizen," he said.