The July 31 front-page article “Asylum seekers’ cases failing” included anecdotes from hearings before U.S. Immigration Judge V. Stuart Couch. For context, it may be valuable to consider Mr. Couch’s career record as a Marine Corps officer, state prosecutor, private-practice lawyer, judge on the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals and military prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay.
Mr. Couch was one of the first military lawyers assigned to prosecute suspected terrorists linked to the 9/11 attacks. Mr. Couch discovered that statements implicating Mohamedou Ould Slahi, suspected of recruiting some of the 9/11 hijackers, and his subsequent confessions had been extracted through physical and psychological torture. Mr. Couch refused to file charges based on government misconduct. Mr. Slahi was released in 2016. In his three-year tour at Guantanamo, Mr. Couch repeatedly found cases undermined by legal, ethical or evidentiary problems. A 2004 memo Mr. Couch wrote for the office of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warned that the abuse of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other detainees in CIA custody would create immense legal obstacles to their successful prosecution, a warning that proved prescient.
Mr. Couch took his stands privately, within the military and with no political agenda. He acted on what he saw as his military, legal and Christian obligations to honor human dignity. Having studied Mr. Couch’s record, including attending hearings in the Charlotte, immigration court for my book “The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay,” I’m convinced that no litigant could hope for a judge more fair, ethical and conscientious than Mr. Couch.
Jess Bravin, Washington