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Inside Gitmo Lawyer Creates a Stir

Posted Jul 23, 2007 11:23 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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An Army reserve lawyer with an inside view of military tribunals at Guantanamo is scheduled to testify about his criticisms of the review process before a House committee this Thursday.

Stephen Abraham is an unlikely critic, the New York Times reports in a profile. He is a lawyer in civilian life and a reserve Army intelligence officer appointed to the Pentagon unit running hearings for Guantanamo detainees.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to accept an appeal by detainees after Abraham filed an affidavit detailing his criticisms. He said tribunals felt pressured to rule against detainees, and were ordered to consider more evidence if they found that detainees had not been properly classified as enemy combatants, the Associated Press reported at the time. (See this ABAJournal.com post for details on the high court’s unusual decision to grant cert.)

Abraham told the Times that many of the charges against detainees were based on incomplete information, such as reports that a detainee was found in a suspect area or was tied to a terrorist group. He said he felt a duty to come forward.

“Nobody stood up and said the emperor’s wearing no clothes,” Abraham told the Times. “The prevailing attitude was, ‘If they’re in Guantánamo, they’re there for a reason.’ ”

A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Chito Peppler, said Abraham did a brief stint as database manager and did not have a complete view of all the evidence used in the tribunals or the review process itself.

During that stint, Abraham was appointed to one of the review tribunals, the Times reports. In its only case, the panel found the detainee was not properly classified as an enemy combatant. A second panel heard the case a few months later and issued an opposite finding.

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