During the last full week of March 2015, I will travel to Guantanamo Bay (GTMO), Cuba as a member of the Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP) at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. It’s an honor to have been selected. I will observe military commission proceedings for Abd al Hadi-al Iraqi, who arrived from CIA custody to GTMO in 2007.
In 2013, the United States government charged him with denying quarter, attacking protected property, using treachery or perfidy, and attempted use of treachery or perfidy in a series of attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan between about 2003 and 2004, and conspiracy to commit law of war offenses.
General Preparation for the Project and my Guantanamo Bay travel
Whirlwind is a term I have seen associated with the process of becoming a fair trial observer as a part of the Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP). I didn’t really have any previously determined thoughts on GTMO that were fully fleshed out by thorough law school level research. Prior to conducting research, I think my level of knowledge was comparable to that of the average American. Though, maybe slightly than more than average, given that I have known several members of the military who served there.
Nevertheless, I have begun the process of researching and learning as much as possible about the project itself, the circumstances surrounding the operation of GTMO and military commissions, and the specific case I will observe. Absent a background in international law, the Guantanamo Fair Trial Manual has been a great resource in becoming familiar with the various sources of law that are implicated in the military commission system.
In addition, I’ve had to explore my thoughts and feelings about what the overarching principles of justice really mean as applied to GTMO. As is with any person, my life experiences have shaped my perspectives on the ethical components of domestic and global issues.
My Indiana McKinney Law School Career
Despite my penchant for world travel, becoming a member of MCOP is admittedly my first law school experience dealing with any area of international law. During my second year of law school I worked as a part-time law clerk for the Marion County Public Defender Agency. Following that, I volunteered with the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic’s Expungement Help Desk, where I informed members of the community about Indiana’s expungement law. In July 2014, I began working full-time for the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, and next month I will begin as a part-time law clerk for the Indiana State Personnel Department. This semester I have been fortunate enough to extern for Justice Steven H. David of the Indiana Supreme Court. From July 2007 to August 2008, Justice David (at the time Colonel David) was the Chief Defense Counsel for the Military Commissions at Guantanamo Bay.
My Military Service
As a member of the Army National Guard for over 10 years, I deployed once in 2011 to Kosovo as a part of Kosovo Force (KFOR) 14. KFOR has been a part of the larger multinational presence in Kosovo since 1999.
In addition, I have personally participated in the military funeral honors ceremonies for 323 veterans, a handful of which have been Iraq and Afghanistan war casualties. In no way does this fuel personal anger or hatred towards the detainees held in GTMO. Those servicemen were honored for their sacrifices for democracy that implores fairness in the service of justice. On the contrary, it is all the more reason for me to ensure I am doing everything within my power to help the MCOP fulfill its missions (attend, observe, analyze, critique, and report).
As stated in the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual, “NGO Observers are the eyes and ears of the outside world as to what happens at Guantanamo Bay. NGO Observers have a unique responsibility to share their experiences, insights and conclusions with the outside world. NGOs should not bow to pressure. What happens at Guantanamo Bay should not stay at Guantanamo Bay.”
As a part of that mission, I have been tasked with expanding the portion of the Guantanamo Fair Trial Manual covering the rights and interests of the men and women in Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JFT-GTMO).