William Glaberson for the NY Times reports on Colonel Stephen E. Abraham. In June, Colonel Abraham became the first military insider to criticize publicly the Guantánamo hearings, which determine whether detainees should be held indefinitely as enemy combatants. Just days after detainees’ lawyers submitted an affidavit containing his criticisms, the United States Supreme Court reversed itself and agreed to hear an appeal arguing that the hearings are unjust and that detainees have a right to contest their detentions in federal court.
Some lawyers say Colonel Abraham’s account — of a hearing procedure that he described as deeply flawed and largely a tool for commanders to rubber-stamp decisions they had already made — may have played an important role in the justices’ highly unusual reversal. That decision once again brought the administration face to face with the vexing legal, political and diplomatic questions about the fate of Guantánamo and the roughly 360 men still held there.
“Nobody stood up and said the emperor’s wearing no clothes,” Colonel Abraham said in an interview. “The prevailing attitude was, ‘If they’re in Guantánamo, they’re there for a reason.’ ”
His road to notoriety, he says, is entirely of a piece with his biography. A political conservative who says he cried when Richard M. Nixon resigned the presidency, he says he has remained a reservist throughout his adult life to repay the country for the opportunities it offered his family. His father is a Holocaust survivor who emigrated after the Second World War.
“It is my duty,” Colonel Abraham said of his decision to come forward.
Often, he said, intelligence reports relied only on accusations that a detainee had been found in a suspect area or was associated with a suspect organization. Some, he said, described detainees as jihadist without detail.
Many detainees implicated other detainees, he said, and there was often no way to test whether they had provided false information to win favor with interrogators.
In a hearing on Oct. 26, 2004, a transcript shows, one detainee was told that another had identified him as having attended a terrorism training camp.
The detainee asked that his accuser be brought to testify. “We don’t know his name,” the senior officer on the hearing panel said.
At another hearing, later reviewed by a federal judge, a Turkish detainee, Murat Kurnaz, was said to have been associated with an Islamic missionary group. He had also traveled with a man who had become a suicide bomber.
“It would appear,” Judge Joyce Hens Green wrote in 2005, “that the government is indefinitely holding the detainee — possibly for life — solely because of his contacts with individuals or organizations tied to terrorism and not because of any terrorist activities that the detainee aided, abetted or undertook himself.” And exactly like the fable of the Emperor's New Clothes, wherein anyone who failed to see the Emperor's allegedly magnificent wardrobe was deemed incompetent or stupid, Pentagon officials persist in admiring the splendid wonderfulness of Bush's tribunals, and they accuse Colonel Abraham of being incompetent and stupid.
Finally everyone was saying, "He doesn't have anything on!"
The emperor shuddered, for he knew that they were right, but he thought, "The procession must go on!" He carried himself even more proudly, and the chamberlains walked along behind carrying the train that wasn't there.
"Pentagon officials have dismissed his criticisms as biased and said he was not in the position to have seen the entire process work."
"Pentagon officials say his account indicates that he misunderstood the purpose of the hearings."