Ashcroft vs. the Pentagon: Infighting Over Military Tribunals
Now the truth comes out. There was indeed an ongoing battle between the Pentagon (Rumsfeld), the State Deparment (Condi Rice) and the Justice Department (Ashcroft) over the Administration's planned military tribunals at Guantanamo. And who would have thought it was John Ashcroft complaining the planned trials were unfair?
A year later, with no trials yet in sight, some officials at the highest levels of the Bush administration began privately venting their frustration about both the slow pace of the Pentagon's new courts and the soundness of their rules. Attorney General John Ashcroft was especially vocal.
"Timothy McVeigh was one of the worst killers in U.S. history," Mr. Ashcroft said at one meeting of senior officials, according to two of those present. "But at least we had fair procedures for him."
For once, Ashcroft is right. Trials in federal courts are fair. Timothy McVeigh did not get a perfect trial, but he did get a fair one, with unlimited access to counsel, a Judge who granted almost every defense request for additional funds for lawyers and experts, access to law enforcement reports (except those not revealed by the FBI until shortly before his death,) a jury to decide his guilt and punishment and government-funded appeals.
Those detained at Guantanamo and classified by Bush as "enemy combatants" have been dealt the short end of the stick: trial by military judges, no right to appeal, severely limited access to counsel and to see the evidence against them and monitoring of attorney-client communications.
Particularly grievous is the fact that many of the detainees were not terrorists at all, but men whose guilt was assumed because they were caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many had been sold to the Taliban and had never raised a weapon or made a threat against the United States. Yet, they were transported across the world to Guantanamo and confined in conditons that would likely have resulted in successful habeas motions had they been in America's prisons instead of in Cuba.
The Pentagon guys were the baddies.
We provided them with only the information that we, in our arrogance - or the arrogance of our leadership - thought they needed," one former Pentagon official said.
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