Magazine article The Nation

Defending Show Trials. (Comment)

Magazine article The Nation

Defending Show Trials. (Comment)

Article excerpt

At long last, the military appears to be gearing up to try some of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners. In late May it announced the appointment of a chief prosecutor and a chief defense counsel, both military officers who answer to the Pentagon's general counsel, and disclosed that it was reviewing plans for an execution chamber. The trials are not designed to distinguish the guilty from the innocent so much as to obtain guilty verdicts for a select few. To this end, they are designed to be an entirely inside job. The military is prosecutor, defense counsel, judge, appellate reviewer and executioner. In theory, there is one exception--detainees who can find one may be represented by a civilian lawyer of their choosing.

But the only thing more difficult than getting out of Guantanamo may be finding a lawyer willing to participate as civilian defense counsel in a military tribunal. The difficulties start with the fact that the detainees, highly unpopular clients in any event, have no access to the outside world, so they can't exactly call around for lawyers. But that wasn't enough of a deterrent for the military. It requires all civilian attorneys to agree in advance that their conversations with clients can be monitored, thereby obliterating the attorney-client privilege and making it impossible to develop the kind of trust necessary for an effective defense. Civilian lawyers must obtain a security clearance at their own expense. And even then they won't get to see certain classified evidence used against their client, which only military lawyers will be permitted to view. …

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