- The Washington Times - Monday, August 1, 2005

The Pentagon yesterday said it had conducted an internal probe into criticisms by military prosecutors about the fairness of the trial system for terror suspects detained at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and concluded that the accusations were unfounded.

Two senior prosecutors, both of whom left the prosecution team after making the complaints last year, had said the trials were rigged against the suspects.

The Defense Department’s subsequent investigation “showed no legal or ethical violations, rather the allegations appeared to be the result of miscommunication, misunderstandings and personality conflicts,” the Pentagon said.

Capt. John Carr and Maj. Robert Preston, both of the Air Force, complained in e-mails about the design of the trials and the leadership and comments of Army Col. Frederick L. Borch, who was chief prosecutor.

Capt. Carr said Col. Borch had indicated that the military commissions sitting in judgment over the trials would be “hand-picked” to ensure convictions. A separate e-mail by Maj. Preston called the commissions “wrongly managed, wrongly focused and a blight on the reputation of the armed forces.”

“I consider the insistence on pressing ahead with cases that would be marginal even if properly prepared to be a severe threat to the reputation of the military justice system and even a fraud on the American people,” Maj. Preston wrote. “Surely they don’t expect that this … effort is all that we have been able to put together after all this time.”

About the same time that Capt. Carr and Maj. Preston raised their accusations last year, military defense attorneys complained that allowing classified evidence to be used against the detainees stacked the cases against them.

The Defense Department has charged four detainees with war crimes under the system. Their trials opened last August but were halted abruptly in November when a federal judge in Washington ruled that the system violated the Geneva Conventions and was unconstitutional.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned that ruling last month, paving the way for the trials to proceed at Guantanamo.

Judge John G. Roberts Jr., President Bush’s nominee to the Supreme Court, was on the appeals panel that reinstated the trials.

Col. Borch, who has retired as chief prosecutor, rejected the complaints by Capt. Carr and Maj. Preston in an e-mail and called the trial system “critical to the nation’s on-going war on terrorism.”

The Pentagon said it took the complaints “very seriously and conducted a thorough investigation,” resulting in a restructuring of the chief prosecutor’s office.

“Despite any internal difficulties experienced by the prosecutor’s office, the guilt or innocence of each accused will be independently determined by a military commission based solely upon the evidence presented to it,” the Pentagon said.

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