Top Bush Official Resigns After Reports that He Demanded Only Convictions from the Military Tribunals

Defense Department General Counsel William Haynes has resigned after a disclosure by the former chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo military commissions, Col. Morris Davis, involving Haynes’ view of the true function of the military trials: to blindly impose guilty verdicts. Davis revealed that Haynes insisted that the military tribunals only produce convictions and no acquittals — leading to the demand of various military lawyers to be transferred. Haynes is the very same person that the White House and GOP fought to be made a federal judge.

Davis recently recalled how Haynes confronted him after he noted that in 2005 that there was a chance that some detainees could be acquitted:

“I said to him that if we come up short and there are some acquittals in our cases, it will at least validate the process. At which point, (Haynes’) eyes got wide and he said, ‘Wait a minute, we can’t have acquittals. If we’ve been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can’t have acquittals, we’ve got to have convictions.'”

Three prosecutors, Maj. Robert Preston, Capt. John Carr and Capt. Carrie Wolf, asked to be transferred from the Office of Military Commissions in 2004, saying they had been told the process was rigged, Davis said.

For that story, click here.

Haynes has long been a central figure in the torture and detainee scandals. His years to blind loyalty to Bush (over any commitment to the law) led to the award of a nomination for an appellate judgeship. There were collective howls of opposition from lawyers across the country, but Bush officials and GOP activists insisted that Haynes was the perfect candidate to mete out justice from one of our highest courts. Click here

Even after a filibuster, Bush renominated Haynes as his ideal of a judge. Haynes eventually asked Bush to withdraw his nomination but stayed on at the Defense Department.

13 thoughts on “Top Bush Official Resigns After Reports that He Demanded Only Convictions from the Military Tribunals”

  1. Thanks, DW. Paragon ‘in the rough’ – MAYBE 🙂
    -cough, cough, sputter, sputter…

    You support your support people, and you get even more support in return – ie Management 101.

    Of course it’s easy with you, because you agree with me on just about everything and I with you. We think very much alike. So there.

    As far as ‘news junkies’ go, you and JT are cut from the same cloth – no question!

    I look forward to your posts, as a matter of course, and anxiously await your narrative tying the early legal groundwork together!

    Thanks for being here, bro’.

  2. Patty C, You are a paragon! I don’t honestly know how you do it!

    Anyway, I am not sure Haynes “retirement” is directly caused by Davis’s revelations, although the latter certainly didn’t hurt.

    What is emerging is that the legal culture of the administration was a unique one: laws were viewed as obstacles rather than guides and legal restraints were neutralized one way or the other. I haven’t yet posted that the administration’s legal groundwork for defending itself on the us attorney’s scandal(s) was laid several years ago in signing statements and briefs on whistleblower cases. They wanted to carve out an exception for DOJ lawyers making it impossible for the latter to testify against their bosses. They planned very well and in advance.

    They moved simultaneously to neutralize the JAGs but were stymied by institutional resistance they couldn’t get around. Hurrah for the traditional conservatism of the military establishment.

    In the agencies, they captured all the solicitor positions (remember Eugene Scalia?) and immediately went to work there as well.

    Its an intricate and depressing narrative of how appointed lawyers went about circumventing the law.

    As to the Gitmo cases: they better not use evidence derived from coerced testimony. That would be the absolute bottom they could fall to.

  3. Let’s not forget to mention, plainly, that conviction for war crimes here means an automatic death penalty for these men

    In other words, in order for George Bush to be ‘right’ and to be able to justify holding them as enemy combatants for years, without tribunals or trial, they simply must be killed.

  4. RCampbell, I totally agree with you that my comments cannot and should not be confined solely to Mr. Haynes. My only problem was that I couldn’t make a list that long off the top of my head at the time I posted my previous message. Am I forgiven? Please? 🙂

  5. and here it is, DW…

    And here is a piece by DaviS published in the LA Times.

    Why the former chief prosecutor for the Office of Military Commissions resigned his post.
    By Morris D. Davis
    December 10, 2007

    I was the chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, until Oct. 4, the day I concluded that full, fair and open trials were not possible under the current system. I resigned on that day because I felt that the system had become deeply politicized and that I could no longer do my job effectively or responsibly.

    In my view — and I think most lawyers would agree — it is absolutely critical to the legitimacy of the military commissions that they be conducted in an atmosphere of honesty and impartiality. Yet the political appointee known as the “convening authority” — a title with no counterpart in civilian courts — was not living up to that obligation.

    In a nutshell, the convening authority is supposed to be objective — not predisposed for the prosecution or defense — and gets to make important decisions at various stages in the process. The convening authority decides which charges filed by the prosecution go to trial and which are dismissed, chooses who serves on the jury, decides whether to approve requests for experts and reassesses findings of guilt and sentences, among other things.

    Earlier this year, Susan Crawford was appointed by the secretary of Defense to replace Maj. Gen. John Altenburg as the convening authority. Altenburg’s staff had kept its distance from the prosecution to preserve its impartiality. Crawford, on the other hand, had her staff assessing evidence before the filing of charges, directing the prosecution’s pretrial preparation of cases (which began while I was on medical leave), drafting charges against those who were accused and assigning prosecutors to cases, among other things.

    How can you direct someone to do something — use specific evidence to bring specific charges against a specific person at a specific time, for instance — and later make an impartial assessment of whether they behaved properly? Intermingling convening authority and prosecutor roles perpetuates the perception of a rigged process stacked against the accused.

    The second reason I resigned is that I believe even the most perfect trial in history will be viewed with skepticism if it is conducted behind closed doors. Telling the world, “Trust me, you would have been impressed if only you could have seen what we did in the courtroom” will not bolster our standing as defenders of justice. Getting evidence through the classification review process to allow its use in open hearings is time-consuming, but it is time well spent.

    Crawford, however, thought it unnecessary to wait because the rules permit closed proceedings. There is no doubt that some portions of some trials have to be closed to protect classified information, but that should be the last option after exhausting all reasonable alternatives. Transparency is critical.

    Finally, I resigned because of two memos signed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England that placed the chief prosecutor — that was me — in a chain of command under Defense Department General Counsel William J. Haynes. Haynes was a controversial nominee for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, but his nomination died in January 2007, in part because of his role in authorizing the use of the aggressive interrogation techniques some call torture.

    I had instructed the prosecutors in September 2005 that we would not offer any evidence derived by waterboarding, one of the aggressive interrogation techniques the administration has sanctioned. Haynes and I have different perspectives and support different agendas, and the decision to give him command over the chief prosecutor’s office, in my view, cast a shadow over the integrity of military commissions. I resigned a few hours after I was informed of Haynes’ place in my chain of command.

    The Military Commissions Act provides a foundation for fair trials, but some changes are clearly necessary. I was confident in full, fair and open trials when Gen. Altenburg was the convening authority and Brig. Gen. Tom Hemingway was his legal advisor. Collectively, they spent nearly 65 years in active duty, and they were committed to ensuring the integrity of military law. They acted on principle rather than politics.

    The first step, if these truly are military commissions and not merely a political smoke screen, is to take control out of the hands of political appointees like Haynes and Crawford and give it back to the military.

    The president first authorized military commissions in November 2001, more than six years ago, and the lack of progress is obvious. Only one war-crime case has been completed. It is time for the political appointees who created this quagmire to let go.

    Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham have said that how we treat the enemy says more about us than it does about him. If we want these military commissions to say anything good about us, it’s time to take the politics out of military commissions, give the military control over the process and make the proceedings open and transparent.

    Morris D. Davis is the former chief prosecutor for the Office of Military Commissions. The opinions expressed are his own and do not represent the views of the Department of Defense or the Department of the Air Force.

  6. If these allegations are proven true, the whole lot needs to be indicted, tried and, if found guilty (a possibility they guaranteed for others), sent to Gitmo and housed with those “guilty” inmates for oh say 24 hours. I call that natural justice, or sad irony.

  7. Two months ago, I posted here that Congress should subpoena Davis’s testimony.

    But I thought the value would be concerning what Davis knows about the torture that went on at Guantanamo and possibly Bagram. I didn’t dream that Haynes would be so rash.

  8. I agree entirely with Susan’s comments, but this observation:

    “Anyone who would deliberately seek convictions on people when there is no hard evidence to back up charges of being a “terrorist” definitely fits the category of megalomaniac power-grabber in my book.”

    when discussing people in this administration can’t be confined solely to Mr Haynes.

    I haven’t seen or heard this story in the corporate media–what a shock. Perhaps others have.

  9. Thank goodness that Col. Davis and these three other prosecutors didn’t give in to the insanity of the prosecution complex [google VICTIMS OF JUSTICE for more information on that term] and that Haynes was exposed! Anyone who would deliberately seek convictions on people when there is no hard evidence to back up charges of being a “terrorist” definitely fits the category of megalomaniac power-grabber in my book. I’m very glad Haynes resigned, although I would have preferred to see him tossed out publicly. With the proverbial tar and feathers added. But I know enough to realize that would never happen in THIS administration.

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