President Obama only has a couple more weeks in the White House, but there are still a lot of loose ends to tie up. According to MSN.com, a federal judge has ordered the President to bring a copy of the Senate Torture Report involving the CIA’s Black Site prisons to a secret storage facility.
Royce Lamberth is a U.S. district court judge. He released the order on Wednesday. The order was related to the detention of 51 year-old suspected terrorist Abd al Rahim al Nashiri. Mr. al Nashiri is believed to be the mastermind behind the 2000 USS Cole bombing which killed 17 U.S. servicemen. During his stay at Guantanamo Bay, he was subjected to CIA “enhanced interrogation” techniques, including waterboarding and “rectal abuse”.
Lamberth has also ordered the federal government to maintain all records and evidence without exception that could possibly relate to the torture and abuse of detainees at Guantanamo since September 11th, 2001. President Obama has decided to keep his copy of the classified 6,700-page report in the presidential archives, which means it won’t be destroyed. Obama has also refused to declassify the report, meaning it won’t be available to the public until a minimum of 11 years after he leaves office.
Al Nashiri’s experience at Guantanamo bay from 2002 to 2006 has a chapter devoted to it in the report. His lawyers, appointed and paid by the Pentagon, have requested a copy in order to prepare for his trial. But Air Force Col. Vance Spath has refused their request and instead permitted prosecutors to extract information that the defense will be permitted to use. Chief prosecutor Army Brigadier General Mark Martins has characterized the report as a work of “opinion and analysis”, despite the shocking depictions of detainees who were starved, dehydrated, kept naked, rectally tormented, waterboarded, and chained in positions designed to put massive stress on a small number of muscle groups.
Attorneys representing al Nashiri, all but one of whom were appointed and paid by the Pentagon for his defense, had stern words about the procedures governing the release of information pertinent to their client’s trial. In a 12-page briefing, the attorneys criticized the military’s handling of the situation, citing precedent from the Watergate era.
‘Habeas proceedings are governed by distinct rules and concerned with legal issues, such as conditions of confinement, that are outside the military commissions’ competence. And most crucially, habeas corpus proceedings are presided over by tenured federal judges, not by mid-level military officers.’
Mr. Lamberth was appointed by Ronald Reagan and has served in his position for almost three decades. Before becoming a federal judge, he was an attorney in the Army during Vietnam, and also worked as a civilian for the Department of Defense at the Pentagon. Attorneys for the Justice Department have fought Lamberth’s order to preserve the torture report, on the grounds that such an order was outside the boundaries of the unlawful detention suit being filed by al Nashiri’s attorneys. The issue is compounded by the fact that there is little precedent for federal courts to interfere in military legal matters.
Congressional reforms to war courts have changed the procedure for the trial of a captive such as Mr. al Nashiri. Under the new reforms, the courts must convict and sentence a prisoner. Then the case would be handed off to the Pentagon for review, and finally a federal court would examine the case. Mr. Lamberth’s U.S. District Court would not even be asked to review the case. That honor would go to the U.S. District Court of Appeals for D.C..
Rick Kammen, attorney for Mr. al Nashiri, believes that if his client’s counsel can’t view the torture report which is pertinent to his case, the appeals court should be permitted to examine the lurid details of precisely what happened to his client during his detention before evaluating his sentence.
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