Monday, July 23, 2007

Profile in Integrity

Cross-posted at the Agonist.

From today's NY Times, here's this profile of Stephen Abraham, the former Army intelligence officer whose allegations of misconduct at Guantanamo may (nobody knows for sure) have lead the Supreme Court to dramatically reverse it's decision not to hear an appeal related to the Gitmo detainees:

A lawyer in civilian life, he had been decorated for counterespionage and counterterrorism work during 22 years as a reserve Army intelligence officer in which he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. His posting, just as the Guantánamo hearings were accelerating in 2004, gave him a close-up view of the government’s detention policies.

It also turned him into one of the Bush administration’s most unlikely adversaries.

He expanded on that account in a series of recent conversations at his law office here, offering a detailed portrait of a system that he described as characterized by superficial efforts to gather evidence and frenzied pressure to conduct hundreds of hearings in a few months.

Most detainees, he said, have no realistic way to contest charges often based not on solid information, but on generalizations, incomplete intelligence reports and hints of terrorism ties.

“What disturbed me most was the willingness to use very small fragments of information,” he said, recounting how, over his six-month tour, he grew increasingly uneasy at what he saw. In the interviews, he often spoke coolly, with the detachment of a lawyer, but as time wore on grew agitated as he described his experiences.

Often, he said, intelligence reports relied only on accusations that a detainee had been found in a suspect area or was associated with a suspect organization. Some, he said, described detainees as jihadist without detail.

I think the attitude Abraham describes was explained most succinctly in a GQ article I blogged about last week, as one where the guilt of the detainees was decided and an entire legal process was established to confirm that guilt. Of course the Pentagon is quick to dismiss his assertions:

Pentagon officials say his account indicates that he misunderstood the purpose of the hearings, known as combatant status review tribunals or C.S.R.T.’s, which the officials say “afford greater protections for wartime detainees than any nation has ever provided.”

A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Chito Peppler of the Navy, said that Colonel Abraham’s “apparently biased insinuations” did not indicate bad faith or improper behavior by military officials.

“In his capacity as database manager during his brief stint on active duty several years ago,” Commander Peppler said, “Lieutenant Colonel Abraham was not in a position to have a complete view of all the evidence used in the C.S.R.T.’s, as well as the process as a whole.”

They condem themselves with their own words. The strength of their slurs and denials are in proportion to the accuracy and power of Abraham's claims.

By coming forward, Abraham has displayed the same decency, integrity and courage as other members of the military such as those assigned to defend Gitmo detainees, or those in Iraq or Afghanistan who have been willing to come forward and bring wrongful behavior to light. We hear all too often stories about abusers at Abu Ghraib, or elsewhere in Iraq and Afghanistan or at Gitmo, or those like Lt. Cmdr. Peppler who are too willing to malign the integrity of others in the service.But it is worth acknowledging that our armed services are filled with men and women who remember that the oath they took is ultimately to their country and the Constitution, not to a President who has shown a willingness to abuse their character and decency by sending asking them to abuse and torture prisoners of this nation.

1 comment:

adam said...

Yes, exactly. I'm glad you wrote about this.