NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — Stephen E. Abraham’s assignment to the Pentagon unit that runs the hearings at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, seemed a perfect fit.
A lawyer in civilian life, he had been decorated for counterespionage and counterterrorism work during 22 years as a reserve Army intelligence officer in which he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. His posting, just as the Guantánamo hearings were accelerating in 2004, gave him a close-up view of the government’s detention policies.
It also turned him into one of the Bush administration’s most unlikely adversaries.
In June, Colonel Abraham became the first military insider to criticize publicly the Guantánamo hearings, which determine whether detainees should be held indefinitely as enemy combatants. Just days after detainees’ lawyers submitted an affidavit containing his criticisms, the United States Supreme Court reversed itself and agreed to hear an appeal arguing that the hearings are unjust and that detainees have a right to contest their detentions in federal court.
Some lawyers say Colonel Abraham’s account — of a hearing procedure that he described as deeply flawed and largely a tool for commanders to rubber-stamp decisions they had already made — may have played an important role in the justices’ highly unusual reversal. That decision once again brought the administration face to face with the vexing legal, political and diplomatic questions about the fate of Guantánamo and the roughly 360 men still held there.
“Nobody stood up and said the emperor’s wearing no clothes,” Colonel Abraham said in an interview. “The prevailing attitude was, ‘If they’re in Guantánamo, they’re there for a reason.’ ”
He expanded on that account in a series of recent conversations at his law office here, offering a detailed portrait of a system that he described as characterized by superficial efforts to gather evidence and frenzied pressure to conduct hundreds of hearings in a few months.
Most detainees, he said, have no realistic way to contest charges often based not on solid information, but on generalizations, incomplete intelligence reports and hints of terrorism ties.
“What disturbed me most was the willingness to use very small fragments of information,” he said, recounting how, over his six-month tour, he grew increasingly uneasy at what he saw.
The article goes on to detail his criticisms while the response from the government is that he's "biased". I suppose anyone who had his access to those sham tribunals and the flaky evidence presented would certainly end up being biased against what is going on there. If they're not, they're just automatons who believe that due process of law ought to be some sort of luxury and that the so-called war on terror gives the boy king and congress the almighty right to hold people indefinitely while they try to make some sort of case against them. That's inhumane.
Abrahams will testify "before a house commitee", according to the NYT, on July 26th. (I'll see if I can find out which one, with the judiciary committee being the most likely). Hopefully, CSPAN will carry it live.
Just as there are overwhelming reasons to impeach Bush et al and to end the Iraq war, the absolute failures of the Gitmo gulag and its distorted measure of "justice" must finally bring its tenure to an end.
Just shut it down.