Ex-Military Prosecutor Tells of Chaotic Evidence System at Gitmo
Posted Jan 14, 2009 8:42 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss
A military prosecutor who resigned due to ethical qualms says in a court document that the evidence system at Guantanamo is so disorganized that it was impossible to be fair in the prosecution of detainees.
Darrel Vandeveld resigned last year after citing slipshod procedures for turning over exculpatory evidence to defense lawyers. Vandeveld described the conditions in a declaration filed in the case of a juvenile accused of participating in an Afghan grenade attack and in a Washington Post interview.
Vandeveld said he found the evidence system to be in a "state of disarray" as he gathered evidence in the case against the juvenile, Mohammed Jawad, according to the Post story. He said evidence was scattered about in databases, desk drawers and piles on top of desks. Much of the physical evidence collected had disappeared or was stored in unknown locations, he said.
Vandeveld said nearly all the Guantanamo cases were affected by the "complete lack of organization."
Military officials told the Post the allegations were untrue, but a Pentagon official also told of a chaotic evidence system in a separate story in the Washington Post. Susan Crawford, who was appointed as convening authority of the military commissions in February 2007, said that prosecutors were unprepared when she took over.
"A prosecutor has an ethical obligation to review all the evidence before making a charging decision,” Crawford told the Post. “And they didn't have access to all the evidence, including medical records, interrogation logs, and they were making charging decisions without looking at everything."
She said it took more than a year to ensure that prosecutors had access to all of the evidence, including classified materials.
Crawford talked about the evidence system in an interview about why she declined prosecute a different Guantanamo detainee, the alleged 20th hijacker. Crawford said Mohammed al-Qahtani had been tortured by the U.S. military.