Common Cause recently sponsored a compelling session at the National Press Club on prisoner abuse, military commissions trying detainees, and who is responsible for torturous interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This week, as well, the Senate approved the Homeland Security Act and $44 billion in funding to include allowing government to transfer detainees from Guantanamo to the U.S. The House has already approved the bill but both require the President to develop a plan -- including statements that a detainee does not create a security risk domestically.
Common Cause presented a commendation letter to whistleblowers, signed by President Jimmy Carter. Three Brigadier Generals and former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton also signed the letter acknowledging Generals and Army Colonels who protested detainee torture. In particular, Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, one of the honorees, was to receive the letter. But his appearance was cancelled just hours before the event. We surmise this was because Col Vandeveld is still active military -- though no longer in the prosecutor's posting. He resigned as prosecutor with the Office of Military Commissions after learning that detainee Mohammed Jawad had been subjected to continual abuse at Bagram AFB and later at Guantanamo. Col. Vandeveld also discovered that evidence supporting Jawad's case had been suppressed by the Army.
"I was slow to recognize the stain of Guantanamo," he told the Washington Post after resigning from the Judge Adjutant General (JAG). Slow, maybe, but ultimately doing the right thing.
Press Club Presenters included: Emmet Bondurant, attorney representing Mohammed Al Ansi, Scott Horton, Columbia Law School lecturer, Ellen Massimino, CEO and executive director of Human Rights First, and former U.S. Rep. Bob Edgar, president and CEO of Common Cause.
The group believes the U.S. violated Geneva Conventions in treatment and interrogation of detainees in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Discussion included debate on language recently inserted in the Defense Authorization Bill that would exempt FOIA mandates and continue to suppress release of long-concealed photographs of detainee abuse. Other commentary was about the assignment of John H. Durham as federal prosecutor under Attorney General Eric Holder as to whether full disclosure will become public. Attorney General Holder has bucked the earlier Obama Administration position that prosecution of Bush Administration officials would become an issue of national security. Seven former CIA Directors petitioned President Obama to stop or curtail Holder's Investigation on these grounds.
Common Cause, Human Rights First, and the attorney from Columbia all believe former Vice President Richard Cheney should answer for these abuses.
Mike Smith, a member of the National Press Club Newsmakers Committee, served as moderator of the event and provided insight on the legislative and executive branch battles. He is also CEO of his own public affairs firm.