Pentagon taps former U.S. attorney as Guantanamo prosecutor

By Miami Herald
Tuesday, April 27, 2010; B03

The Pentagon unveiled a new face Monday to advocate for military commissions: David C. Iglesias, one of eight U.S. attorneys whose dismissal in 2006 by the Bush administration raised questions of improper firings.

Iglesias was U.S. attorney for New Mexico when he says he was pressured by two state Republican lawmakers -- then-Sen. Pete V. Domenici and then-Rep. Heather A. Wilson -- to speed up a political corruption investigation. He rebuffed their inquiries, and months later, he was fired from the Justice Department job.

Congress examined whether the prosecutors were dismissed because they would not time indictments and investigations favorably for the GOP at election time.

Iglesias was mobilized last year to the war court as a U.S. Navy Reserve captain. On Monday, he left Andrews Air Force Base for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as part of a Pentagon prosecution team involved in the case of Omar Khadr, a Canadian teenager accused of killing an American soldier in Afghanistan.

Khadr, 23, was captured in a July 2002 firefight near Khost, Afghanistan, in which Delta Forces Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, 28, of Albuquerque was fatally wounded by a grenade.

Pentagon prosecutors say Khadr, who was then 15, threw the grenade that killed Speer as a war crime. He faces charges of murder and of being an al-Qaeda foot soldier; prosecutors seek life in prison, not the maximum penalty of death, in consideration of his age.

Hearings this week on the U.S. Navy base will center around the question of which, if any, of Khadr's confessions can be presented to a jury at his summertime trial.

The case has drawn 35 reporters, a larger media contingent than typically follows Guantanamo proceedings. Many of the media are Canadian. And the Pentagon tapped Iglesias to brief the media as they left Andrews.

The chief war crimes prosecutor, Navy Capt. John F. Murphy, is leading the Khadr team in court.

Earlier in his Navy lawyer career, Iglesias has said, he worked on a hazing case that became a basis for the Hollywood hit set in Guantanamo, "A Few Good Men," starring Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson. Since then, he has emerged as a telegenic critic of Bush-era policies.

Iglesias announced in January 2009 that he had been mobilized, and he kicked off his role in the December edition of Esquire magazine, promoting the Obama reforms for the war court in an article titled "Can One Good Man Redeem a Nation for the Sins of Guantanamo?"

The Panamanian-born Iglesias also sat for a Web video for Esquire, in which he criticized the Bush White House he once served, saying: "There was a sense that, pretty much, there were no rules regarding prosecution of alleged terrorists."

He hailed Obama-era plans for Guantanamo in particular and war on terrorism policies broadly: "For the public to have -- not just the American public, but the international public -- to have confidence in the prosecutions, they have to believe that the system is based on fairness, and I believe there was a substantial doubt as to that in the prior administration."

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