Monday, July 09, 2007

They don't get it

Today's Wall Street Journal (on the still Murdoch-free news pages) reports on the latest bureaucratic fiasco concerning the Guantanamo Bay executive branch "trials." After the Gitmo judges threw out the cases against two detainees last month, on the ground that they hadn't been properly classified as "unlawful enemy combatants" before the trial began, the Bush administration needed to set up an appeals panel so that they could appeal that verdict. Apparently it never occurred to them to set one up beforehand, presumably because they assumed they'd never lose in any of the "trials."

So they set it up. It has 16 members who decide whether the original court was right in dismissing the charges, charges brought, in effect, by George W. Bush. 12 of the members are military officers. Their boss: George W. Bush. The other four are civilians who were on a predecessor panel -- the panel that set up the original Gitmo tribunals, later struck down by the courts. And of course they were given their original and new appointments by, ultimately, the Commander-in-Chief of the US Armed Forces. That man again.

As the WSJ adds (subs. req'd)

Two of the four -- former Attorney General Griffin Bell and former Transportation Secretary William Coleman -- advised Mr. Rumsfeld in drafting the rules of the system struck down by the high court. Mr. Coleman also attended a mock trial the Pentagon staged in 2003 to help prosecutors sharpen their cases against detainees.

Anyway the good news from the article is that the military lawyers who represent the defendants plan on challenging this structure, and legal experts think that given the obvious conflicts of interest, they'll win. But the basic point -- that one branch of government can't be police, judge, jury, jailer, and on-the-fly rule maker, seems still lost on their less honourable bosses.