The ACLU, the Criminal Defense Lawyers, and Janet Reno (former Clinton Attorney General) have joined forces to turn the military trials of some of America's most dedicated enemies, into media circuses with a maximum of delays.
The facts for this article, but not the legal conclusions, come from an article published by military.com, from the Miami Herald on 8 April, 2006.
The ACLU has launched a $8.5 million dollar effort to provide what are supposed to be "top notch" private counsel for the illegal enemy combatants facing military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay. Among those to be provided this assistance is the man who has, apparently, confessed to being the mastermind behind the attacks that took place on 9/11.
This is a joint effort of the ACLU and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. It is headed by Janet Reno, Attorney General under Bill Clinton. The ACLU has previously referred to the military tribunals as "kangaroo courts," and has participated in numerous cases up to the Supreme Court, in a failed effort to have the use of military tribunals declared unconstitutional.
The prime focus of the plan is an ACLU effort to obtain private counsel for Khalid Sheik Mohammed, whose capture was major news when it occurred, and who has, apparently, not only confessed to being the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, but who also gave up details of several other planned attacks in the US, which were then thwarted.
The military tribunals always assign military lawyers for the defense. Defendants are allowed, if they choose, to have private counsel as well.
The real purpose of this effort becomes clear when the fact is added that the chief defense counsel, Col. Steve David, has assigned "the defense JAGs [to] attend... ABA death-penalty training classes." To translate that for laymen, that means the counsel are being schooled in the same tactics used by the ACLU to challenge and avoid the death penalty in all cases if possible, and by any means possible.
Let's put this in context. The best known instance of the use of a military tribunal in American history was when Major John Andre of the British Army was captured behind American lines, in civilian clothes. He had documents hidden in his boot which revealed the intent of American General Benedict Arnold to betray the garrison at West Point to the British. Major Andre was brought before General George Washington, and given a military trial (sometimes called a "drum head trial") under the Law of War. He was found guilty and sentenced to hang.
General Washington offered the British an exchange of Major Andre for General Arnold, who had fled to British lines when his plot was discovered. The British refused to turn over Arnold. So, Major Andre was hanged.
The Law of War, which long predated the existence of the United States, was incorporated into the US military code in 1789. It remained so in 1942, when eight German saboteurs who had come on shore from submarines, were tried and convicted by military tribunals. Six were sentenced to death. Their military defense lawyers appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously in the Quirin decision that such trials were proper. Only two years ago, the Court ruled in the Hamdan case that Quirin remains good law.
The bottom line is that the ACLU intends by this process to cause as much trouble, delay and bad press as possible before death penalties are carried out. Justice will probably be done, as it was in the Quirin case. However, unlike WW II, a great deal of bad press will be generated first, courtesy of the ACLU.
Source for original story on the Net: