Army Officer Says Gitmo Panels Flawed
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By BEN FOX Associated Press Writer
June 22,2007 | SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- An Army officer with a key role in the U.S. military hearings at Guantanamo Bay says they relied on vague and incomplete intelligence and were pressured to declare detainees "enemy combatants," often without any specific evidence.
His affidavit, 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 those 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, filed in a Washington appeals court on behalf of a Kuwaiti detainee, Fawzi al-Odah, who is challenging his classification as an "enemy combatant."
Abraham "bravely" agreed to provide the affidavit when defense lawyers contacted him, said al-Odah attorney David Cynamon.
"It proves what we all suspected, which is that the CSRTs were a complete sham," he said.
Matthew J. MacLean, another al-Odah lawyer, said Abraham is the first member of a Combat Status Review Tribunal panel who has been identified, let alone been willing to criticize the tribunals in the public record.
"It wouldn't be quite right to say this is the most important piece of evidence that has come out of the CSRT process, because this is the only piece of evidence ever to come out of the CSRT process," MacLean said. "It's our only view into the CSRT."
The military held Combatant Status Review Tribunals for 558 detainees at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay in 2004 and 2005, with handcuffed detainees appearing before panels made up of three officers. Detainees had a military "personal representative" instead of a defense attorney, and all but 38 were determined to be "enemy combatants."
Abraham was asked to serve on one of the panels, and he said its members felt strong pressure to find against the detainee, saying there was "intensive scrutiny" when they declared a prisoner not to be an enemy combatant. When his panel decided the detainee wasn't an "enemy combatant," they were ordered to reconvene to hear more evidence, he said.
Ultimately, his panel held its ground, and he was never asked to participate in another tribunal, he said.
Abraham did not immediately respond to a message left at his law office.
A Pentagon spokesman said the Department of Defense was preparing a response.
Associated Press writer Matt Apuzzo in Washington contributed to this report.
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