Monday, June 25, 2007

A disturbing window into the CSRT process:

Lieutenent Colonel Stephen Abraham of the U.S. Army Reserves, (a Newport Beach attorney in his civilian life) has seen the CSRT (combatant status review tribunal) process first hand. He has been on a tribunal himself and has served as a go-between various agencies compiling information for the tribunals.

In a sworn statement submitted to the Supreme Court in the Al-Odah and Boumediene cases, Abraham makes it clear that the CSRT is a sham process and that the limited review of the CSRT findings provided by the Detainee Treatment Act are an inadequate substitute for habeas corpus. In poking around various intelligence agencies and offices, Abraham found that there was never any serious attempt to compile possible exculpatory information regarding a prisoner, and that the officers involved in compiling information for the CSRT recorder were often inexperienced and had no legal or intelligence expertise.

Abraham's description of his own experience on a CSRT does not inspire any confidence in the process:

On one occasion, I was assigned to a CSRT panel with two other officers, an Air Force colonel and an Air Force major, the latter understood by me to be a judge advocate. We reviewed evidence presented to us regarding the recommended status of a detainee. All of us found the information presented to lack substance.

What were purported to be specific statements of fact lacked even the most fundamental earmarks of objectively credible evidence. Statements allegedly made by percipient witnesses lacked detail. Reports presented generalized statements in indirect and passive forms without stating the source of the information or providing a basis for establishing the reliability or the credibility of the source. Statements of interrogators presented to the panel offered inferences from which we were expected to draw conclusions favoring a finding of “enemy combatant” but that, upon even limited questioning from the panel, yielded the response from the Recorder, “We’ll have to get back to you.” The personal representative did not participate in any
meaningful way.

On the basis of the paucity and weakness of the information provided both during and after the CSRT hearing, we determined that there was no factual basis for concluding that the individual should be classified as an enemy combatant.
After reaching its decision, the Director of OARDEC, Rear Admiral McGarrah, immediately questioned the panel's findings and ordered the CSRT reopened. The panel stuck to its guns and decided that the prisoner could not be classified as a non-enemy combatant. Needless to say, Abraham was never asked to be on a CSRT again. If the detainee in question was one of those unlucky ones that went through multiple "do-over" CSRTs, it may be that another panel later found him to be an "enemy combatant." This even could have been our client Mr. Al-Ghizzawi. In Mr. Al-Ghizzawi's "first" CSRT he was found to not be an enemy combatant. Six weeks later a new panel was convened and based on the same evidence they found him to be an enemy.