Air Force Col. Morris Davis, the Chief Prosecutor for Guantanamo Bay military tribunals has resigned:
MIAMI — The chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo military commissions has resigned, raising the prospect of further delays in the Bush administration’s six-year effort to bring prisoners in the war on terrorism to trial.
The Pentagon confirmed Friday that Air Force Col. Morris Davis, a steadfast supporter of the controversial detention and judicial processes at the U.S. Naval Base in southern Cuba, had asked to be relieved of his duties. Defense Department spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said a successor has yet to be named.
Davis’ resignation reportedly stems from a dispute with Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann over Hartman’s authority to control Davis’ prosecutorial decisions.
Davis, a veteran military lawyer who had served in the position for at least two years, lately had chafed under the second-guessing and micromanaging of Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, who this summer became legal advisor to the tribunal convening authority, an attorney general-like post.
Hartmann has urged the prosecution to move forward with trials of the “high-value” detainees rather than try smaller fish in the pool for whom prosecutors have more convincing evidence and better-prepared cases. The prosecution was prodded to proceed on those cases before all the commissions’ procedural codes were adopted and legal challenges had been worked out.
The 16 “high-value” suspects, including accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, were transferred there from secret CIA prisons a year ago.
The only ‘conviction’ the Gitmo star chamber has managed to procure so far has been the embarrassing plea agreement last March with Australian Thomas Hicks. Davis, who recommended a long sentence for Hicks, was reportedly unhappy about Hartman’s politically motivated intervention that forced Hick’s early release. (Hicks remains under a gag order about his treatment at Gitmo, an order conveniently timed to expire after the Aussie Federal elections.)
On the heels of the Hicks embarrassment, as well as continuing legal challenges to the Constitutionality of the whole sordid enterprise, the Bushies know they need a big win to salvage the viability of their extraterritorial star chamber. Yet the only defendant currently awaiting trial is 21 year old Canadian, Omar Khadr, accused of fragging a US Army medic in Afganistan in 2002 when he was 15.
While true believer Col. Davis may have thought he was doing God’s work in prosecuting this ‘small fry’ for alleged crimes committed as a teenager, Gen. Hartman understands the Rovian reality that the Gitmo tribunals are strictly exercises in political expediency, and that prosecuting a 9/11 patsy has far more propaganda value than prosecuting a lowly child grunt. If Davis doesn’t get that, reasons Hartman, then Davis obviously isn’t the right man for the Chief Prosecutor’s job.
Bottom line: With Davis now out of the way, expect Khadr’s trial to be put on the back burner while the new prosecutor (yet to be named) gears up for a big, Gitmo show trial of the alleged 9/11 ‘mastermind’. Assuming the Bushies remain true to form, expect this new ‘Terror Trial’ to begin somewhere around the time of the Democratic National Convention.