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Six Gitmo Prosecutors Who Resigned In Protest

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by Eric Umansky, ProPublica

Last week, yet another prosecutor at the war crimes tribunals at
Guantanamo Bay
href="http://www.propublica.org/article/another-gitmo-prosecutor-resigns-in-
protest-925/">resigned in protest. The officer, Lt.
Col. Darrel Vandeveld,
href="http://www.propublica.org/article/former-gitmo-prosecutor-detainee-was
-child-soldier-and-duped-929/">complained that
prosecutors hadn't given the defense in the case
"potentially exculpatory evidence." As
we
href="http://www.propublica.org/article/another-gitmo-prosecutor-resigns-in-
protest-925/">noted
, Vandeveld is not the first Gitmo
prosecutor to protest the proceedings.

Six prosecutors have either stepped down or refuse to prosecute
citing qualms about the system. We decided to compile a list.

Major John Carr – March 2004

A captain at the time, Carr was on the team to prosecute Gitmo's
first war crimes trials. But
href="http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB112285649242201078-tjc0gmeHIQpF
uNcSjYXqHSQ4Gpk_20050831.html?mod=blogs">the Air Force prosecutor
quit
, saying prosecutors in their office had suppressed
evidence of abuse and had failed to turn over potentially exculpatory
evidence. The action, Carr
href="http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB112285649242201078-tjc0gmeHIQpF
uNcSjYXqHSQ4Gpk_20050831.html?mod=blogs">wrote in an
email to the then-chief prosecutor,
"may constitute
dereliction of duty, false official statements or other criminal
conduct."

Major Robert Preston – March 2004

Preston was on the same team as Carr and href="http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB112285649242201078-tjc0gmeHIQpF
uNcSjYXqHSQ4Gpk_20050831.html?mod=blogs">resigned at the same
time
. He complained that others in their office had
suppressed FBI documentation of abuse.  

"I sincerely believe that this process is wrongly managed, wrongly
focused and a blight on the reputation of the armed forces," Preston wrote
in an
href="http://www.humanrightsfirst.info/pdf/08307-etn-tortured-justice-web.pd
f">email
to his superiors. "This assignment is quite
literally ruining my life."

An investigation by the Pentagon's inspector general of both
Preston's and Carr's allegations reportedly found what one advisor to the
tribunals
href="http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/01/politics/01gitmo.html?pagewanted=all
">described as "no evidence of any
ethical violation"
. The report has never been made
public.

Captain Carrie Wolf – Mid-2004

Little has been written about Capt. Wolf, but she reportedly
wrote
emails
to superiors detailing concerns about the tribunal
system. She
href="http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200508/s1428749.htm">asked
to be moved
from the prosecutors' office around the same as
Preston and Carr. Wolf appears to have never publicly commented on the
decision. Newsweek
href="http://www.newsweek.com/id/137627/page/2">tried
to speak with her this summer, but could not reach her.

Lt Col. Stuart Couch – Mid-2004

Couch came to believe that the detainee he was slated to prosecute,
Mohamedou Ould Slahi, had been abused during his time at Gitmo. Couch
did not resign, but he did lodge complaints and refused to participate in
the planned tribunal. According to the Wall Street Journal, Slahi
been
href="http://www.pierretristam.com/Bobst/07/wf040107.htm">chained to
the floor
and subjected to stress positions. Interrogators
also
href="http://www.pierretristam.com/Bobst/07/wf040107.htm">reportedly span> gave Slahi a forged letter saying his mother had been
detained and was being sent to Gitmo.

Couch told the Journal he was "morally
opposed" to the interrogation techniques "and for that reason
alone refused to participate in the prosecution in any
manner."

"Here was somebody I felt was connected to 9/11," he told the
Journal. "But in our zeal to get information, we had compromised our
ability to prosecute him."

"We lost what little bit of credibility that might have been
there," Couch later told Newsweek.

Col. Morris Davis – October 2007

Explaining his resignation, Morris, the former chief prosecutor at
the tribunals,
href="http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-davis10dec10,0,2446661.story
">cited the lack of transparency of the trials as
well as political interference from higher-ups. He
href="http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-davis10dec10,0,2446661.story
">wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "I
concluded that full, fair and open trials were not possible under the
current system." Morris said he resigned "
href="http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-davis10dec10,0,2446661.story
">a few hours" after being told that his new boss
would be a controversial Defense Department
href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_J._Haynes,_II">lawyer
who had href="http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/us_law/etn/misc/haynes/index.asp"> n>approved abusive href="http://www.slate.com/id/2119122/">treatment of
prisoners
.

This spring, Morris testified on behalf of Salim Hamdan, the
defendant in Gitmo's first war crimes trial. Under questioning, Morris
recounted being told by his superior, "
href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/28/AR2008
042802982_pf.html">We can't have acquittals. We have
to have convictions.'"  (A Pentagon spokeswoman later
href="http://www.thenation.com/doc/20080303/tuttle">said an>, "The Department of Defense disputes the assertions made by Colonel
Davis in this statement regarding acquittals.")

Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld – September
2008

Vandeveld was slated to prosecute the case of Mohamed Jawad,
a teenager at the time of his capture in 2002 in Afghanistan. But Vandeveld
suggested in an affidavit that he agrees with the defense's stance on the
case, namely that Jawad was a child soldier and forced to fight against the
U.S.

Testifying on the behalf of the defense last week, Vandeveld said
he found key evidence that hadn't been given to the defense and eventually
went from a
" href="http://www.miamiherald.com/news/world/AP/story/703563.html">true
believer to someone who felt truly deceived
."

The current chief prosecutor at Gitmo href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/09/24/AR2008
092402101.html">dismissed Vandeveld's claims, saying,
"We are the most scrupulous organization you can imagine
in terms of disclosure to the defense."
Vandeveld was also
reportedly ordered to undergo a
href="http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation/story/702219.html">mental
health evaluation
.

Cross-posted at ProPublica, America's largest investigative newsroom.

Eric Umansky is a senior writer for ProPublica. Read more of his work here.