Published on Friday, 20 September 2013
Written by Tom Fitton
Pentagon Gives Leftist Groups Prime Spots at GTMO Trials
If you’ve been reading my Weekly Updates for a while, you know that Judicial Watch has been extremely active monitoring terrorist military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay. In fact, JW staff has been on the ground at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GTMO), on no less than 12 occasions to monitor key proceedings there, including the 2008 arraignment of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the 2011 arraignment of USS Cole bomber Bad al-Rahim al-Nassir and a number of KSM motion hearings in 2012 and 2013. In fact, one of our attorneys, Ramona Cotca, has been there all this week.
Unfortunately, our regular participation may be about to change.
As first reported by our own blogger Irene Garcia: “In a startling about-face, the Obama administration is restricting exclusive access to Military Commission hearings in Guantanamo Bay to five leftist human rights groups that openly advocate for the terrorist defendants.”
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In an official memorandum, issued on August 19, 2013, the Office of the Secretary of Defense listed the criteria by which organizations were selected for the privilege of monitoring GTMO proceedings. They must have a “stated mission to advance human rights through advocacy and respect for the law.”
Here’s the punch line. Take a look at the list of the five pre-approved leftist “non-governmental organizations” that will be given exclusive seats at the table for GTMO military commission proceedings: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Bar Association.
Do you see any “rule of law” organizations on this list? I do not.
Perhaps hoping to head-off any accusations of political favoritism, the OSD indicated in its original memo that the policy change was absolutely necessary due to “logistical limitations.” But that still doesn’t explain why all of the organizations they selected are radically left of center.
And this is precisely the point I made in a letter of appeal sent to the Chief of Staff for the OSD, strongly objecting to the Department of Defense’s new exclusion policy:
I am writing to object in the strongest terms to your August 19, 2013 Non-Government Organization (NGO) Observer Selection Policy to observe commission proceedings at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GTMO).
The designation of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Bar Association as essentially “permanent observers” to Commission proceedings is not appropriate.
These groups represent a narrow, extreme ideological view on terrorist detainee issues. These groups, which have been highly critical of the Office of Commissions and GTMO advocate policies at odds with views held by the vast majority of American citizens, whose tax dollars fund the operation of the Office of Commissions and GTMO.
As you may well know, in some instances, persons affiliated with the five NGOs have served as legal counsel or political advocates for the terrorist detainees held at GTMO.”
I close the letter asking OSD to rescind the policy. Failing that, I appeal to OSD to at least reinstate Judicial Watch to the list of permitted observers so that a full range of views on terrorist detainee issues are represented. “Your proposed system could have the effect of freezing out any alternative voices from the NGO community, specifically those voices that have not served as legal and political advocates for terrorist detainees.”
You might be able to guess the type of response that came back.