January 22, 2008
From a Critic of Tribunals to Top Judge
"Back in 2002, a master’s degree candidate at the Naval War College wrote a paper on the Bush administration’s plan to use military commissions to try Guantánamo suspects, concluding that “even a good military tribunal is a bad idea.”
It drew little notice at the time, but the paper has gained a second life because of its author’s big promotion: Col. Ralph H. Kohlmann of the Marines is now the chief judge of the military commissions at the naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
The system, Judge Kohlmann wrote in 2002, would face criticism for the “apparent lack of independence” of military judges and would have “credibility problems,” the very argument made by Guantánamo’s critics.
He said it would be better to try terrorism suspects in federal courts in the United States. “Unnecessary use of military tribunals in the face of reasonable international criticism,” he wrote, “is an ill-advised move.”
The paper is becoming a reference work of sorts in the curious history of Guantánamo, which includes a number of former officials who have become outspoken critics, including several former intelligence officers and a former chief military prosecutor." [RJ]
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