Wednesday, April 08, 2009

And the good times just keep on rolling

"No, no!" said the Queen. "Sentence first - verdict afterwards."

In a little-noticed ruling last week, McClatchy reported on Monday, a federal judge found a witness's testimony to be unreliable.

Okay, not a big deal in and of itself, in fact an everyday occurrence. What made it notable was that the person in question was a government witness in a "significant" number of Guantanamo cases - and that in those cases the government improperly withheld from the defense information about him, a fellow detainee, including that he was undergoing weekly treatment for a serious psychological problem that cast doubt on his fitness as a reliable witness.
Court records appear to indicate that the witness had an antisocial personality disorder. In a legal brief, Batarfi's lawyers point out the diagnosis could mean the person is prone to lying and lacks regard for the difference between right and wrong.
Batarfi is Aymen Saeed Batarfi, a Yemeni doctor who had been held in Gitmo for seven years until last week, when the government suddenly decided at the last minute that it didn't have sufficient evidence that he was an "enemy combatant" to prosecute him and he could be released as soon as it found a country that would take him.

But that didn't satisfy Judge Emmet Sullivan, who
castigated the government for not turning over the medical records and ordered department lawyers to explain why he shouldn't cite them for contempt of court.

"To hide relevant and exculpatory evidence from counsel and from the court under any circumstances, particularly here where there is no other means to discover this information and where the stakes are so very high ... is fundamentally unjust, outrageous and will not be tolerated," Sullivan said, according to a transcript of the hearing.

"How can this court have any confidence whatsoever in the United States government to comply with its obligations and to be truthful to the court?"
He also criticized the government's motives for dropping the case against Batarfi at the last minute and suggested that the government didn't genuinely intend to seek a country that would take him.
"I'm not going to let this case drag on, or any of the other cases on my calendar, indefinitely while the government embarks on what it calls its diplomatic process, because I have seen in the past that that diplomatic process can indeed span months and years, and I have some serious concerns as to whether it's yet and still another ploy ... to continue with his deprivation of his fair day in court. ...

"I'm not going to continue to tolerate indefinite delay on the part of the United States government," Sullivan said. "I mean this Guantanamo issue is a travesty ... a horror story ... and I'm not going to buy into an extended indefinite delay of this man's stay at Guantanamo." ...

Sullivan ordered the Justice Department to notify other judges of the psychiatric records so they could assess whether the government's failure to reveal the extent of the witness's mental problems have bearing on other detainee cases.
This was not an isolated case, either.
According to court records in a separate case, an unidentified government witness who was believed to have psychiatric and substance abuse problems provided information to the government about 40 other detainees.

And earlier this year, news reports revealed that the government relied on testimony by detainee Yasim Muhammed Basardah for evidence in dozens of cases although his reliability was questioned by military officials.
In the "get 'em any way you can" atmosphere of fear-mongering permeating the War on Terror(c)(reg.)(pat.pend.), the niceties of due process and legalities became useless frills if not outright impediments. Even assuming the best of intentions on the part of the Obama administration - which for good reason I'm obviously not going to grant and which would be a bad idea under any circumstances involving any administration - a combination of the criminality of the WHS*, their campaign to populate to DOJ with ideological stooges, and our own complicity with the Democrats' blundering, cowardly, floundering failures to confront them, we have created a pit of immorality and unethical behavior out of which it will take us years to climb. And I have to say that dammit, every instance of someone saying "that was then, this is now" or any version of "But Obama isn't/doesn't/won't" only lengthens that span of time.

*WHS = White House Sociopaths

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