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Guantanamo writings cost ex-prosecutor his new job

By Peter Finn
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 5, 2009

The former chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay has been dismissed from his current position as an assistant director at the Congressional Research Service for penning an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and a letter to The Washington Post that offered strong opinions on the prosecution of detainees held at the military prison in Cuba.

The American Civil Liberties Union wrote Friday to the CRS, a branch of the Library of Congress, demanding that retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis be reinstated. If he is not, it said, the CRS would face a lawsuit charging that Davis's First Amendment rights were violated.

A spokesman at the CRS, which provides neutral policy and legal analysis to Congress, declined to comment on a "personnel-related matter." But in a Nov. 20 letter to Davis, the director of CRS, Daniel P. Mulhollan, said Davis had not shown "awareness that your poor judgment could do serious harm to the trust and confidence Congress reposes in CRS."

The letter, which was released by the ACLU, said Davis would not be kept on after his one-year probationary period at CRS ends Dec. 21. The dismissal was first reported on Newsweek's Web site.

In the Nov. 10 Journal article, Davis wrote that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.'s decision to use both federal court and military commissions to try detainees was "a mistake."

"It will establish a dangerous legal double standard that gives some detainees superior rights and protections, and relegates others to the inferior rights and protections of military commissions," Davis wrote.

Davis's opinions about Guantanamo Bay are well known, and he has been a critic of military commissions since he resigned in 2007, alleging that prosecution decisions were corrupted by political interference.

In a letter to The Post that was published Nov. 11, Davis said former attorney general Michael B. Mukasey was engaged in "fear-mongering worthy of former vice president Dick Cheney" when he raised security concerns about bringing detainees into the United States for prosecution.

Davis said he was writing in his personal capacity, and neither the op-ed nor the letter identified him as an employee of the CRS, where he is an assistant director in the Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division. Davis also said he had previously spoken at events on Guantanamo with permission and without incident.

"Military commissions are not my area of responsibility," Davis said. "Library of Congress policy says people are encouraged to write, teach and speak on areas that are outside their official responsibilities. The ultimate irony is we are in the James Madison Building but the First Amendment doesn't apply for those who work in the building named for the guy who wrote it."

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