Author: wkcoffin14

Reading Transcript v. Observing al-Nashiri Hearing 28 May 2014 – Whitney Coffin

Arrival after hearings closed to Observers!

I arrived at Ft. Meade last Wednesday afternoon, and was therefore, unable to attend the only day of the al-Nashiri USS Cole hearing open to the NGO observers last week. The Judge decided to hold the rest of the hearings for the week in closed session.

Although I am disappointed that I was unable to observe the hearing, I am more than obliged to provide my thoughts on the hearing after reading the transcripts. I have now had the opportunity to read the three separate transcripts covering the al-Nashiri hearing as well as the perspectives of two student observers who (more…)

Washington Trip 5/29/14 – Whitney Coffin

I took a short trip to Washington yesterday to meet up with a friend I hadn’t seen in years. We ate at a place called Sushi Sono — I highly recommend it! The scenery was beautiful even though it was raining. It’s located right on Lake Kittamaqundi off of Patuxent Parkway. The food was delicious! I had a box lunch, which included chicken teriyaki with white rice, as well as California rolls with wasabi and soy sauce.

Pictured: Walking down steps to where several restaurants were located on the lake.

Pictured: Walking down steps to where several restaurants were located on the lake.

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Pictured: A closer picture of the bank and lake. Several paddle boats were tied off on the dock across from Sushi Sono.

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Pictured: Sign directly outside the restaurant.

Arrival Ft. Meade 5/28/14 – Whitney Coffin

Arrival:

After a series of flight delays, and a delightful conversation on the BWI airport shuttle with a man who looked like George W. Bush, I am happy to report that I have finally arrived in Ft. Meade! I’m anxiously awaiting hearing observations tomorrow and Friday. Kristi is going to brief me about today’s events over dinner tonight.

For future Ft. Meade go-ers:

Car Rental – I advise renting a car instead of relying on taxi service. Although all cabs must charge the same rate for travel in this area, the charge is quite pricey. Additionally, another observer, Kristi, arrived yesterday and had a horrendous time trying to get a cab to show up at the hotel. Renting the car was quick and easy. I called from BWI and took the airport shuttle to the rental car pick-up. Furthermore, I found it easy to navigate from the airport to the hotel.

Pictured: My Nissan Sentra car rental for the trip. I rented from Enterprise for about $40/day + gas. Just to give everyone an idea of cost: I drove the car from the airport to the hotel, then to and from base twice, drove to the airport to drop Kristi off, and then went to Washington, and drove back to the airport all for about $15 in gas. If I hadn't rented, cab cost to and from the base would have been around $20/one way, and the hotel shuttle to and from the airport would have been $32/one way.

Pictured: My Nissan Sentra car rental for the trip. I rented from Enterprise for about $40/day + gas. Just to give everyone an idea of cost: I drove the car from the airport to the hotel, then to and from base twice, drove to the airport to drop Kristi off, and then went to Washington, and drove back to the airport all for about $15 in gas. If I hadn’t rented, cab cost to and from the base would have been around $20/one way, and the hotel shuttle to and from the airport would have been $32/one way.

Hotel – Although I just arrived today, I intended on staying at the Ramada Inn Hanover. Kristi checked in to that hotel yesterday and said the service was and room were abysmal. We have since switched to the Courtyard Marriott located at 2700 Hercules Road Annapolis Junction. Thus far, no complaints. I will detail any abnormalities should they arise.

Hotel Update 5/30/14 – We had a great stay at the Marriott! It had a bistro open of breakfast and dinner. The food was delicious! There was a not-so-delightful chirp of the smoke alarm at 5 a.m. An attendant came in and yanked it off the wall so we could sleep. Good thing there wasn’t a fire! But, it was only a minor inconvenience and the staff was pleasant and apologized for it. The cost for the room (2 queen beds) was approximately $150/night, but with a roommate, it was affordable and much nicer and safer than economizing at the Ramada.

 

Pre-Impressions Ft. Meade (al-Nashiri) 5/27/14 – Whitney Coffin

Greetings from IND! I’m currently sitting on the tarmac. The captain said we are delayed . . . but doesn’t know for how long. We’ve already been sitting for 45 minutes. I thought I’d try to make good use of the time,  so I’m writing you now. Once I get to Maryland and into my hotel,  I will try to write again.

I’m honored to be joining three other IU McKinney affiliates this week at Ft. Meade for the al-Nashiri hearings! I spent much of the weekend familiarizing myself with Military Tribunal procedure. I’m looking forward to seeing it in action the next three days. I will take note of everything I observe and report back to all of you. Looking forward to meeting and working with all of you.

Update 5/30/14 – If you plan to fly, avoid US Airways as if it were the plague. The cost of my ticket for roundtrip Indianapolis to Baltimore with 1 stop in Philadelphia was a reasonable $315. However, inclement weather in Philadelphia made travel impossible the night of 5/27/14. Instead of delaying prior to boarding, they proceeded to board. So, we are all seated and buckled. The captain then tells us all that we have to wait for at least 45 minutes on the tarmac before we get any information from the control tower about weather in Philly. Not bad, right? I can wait another 45 minutes. Yes, well, 45 minutes comes and goes. The captain informs us that we are delayed indefinitely. What does that mean? I guess I won’t be making that connecting flight, but even worse, we are still sitting on the tarmac. The captain informs us that we will be going back to a gate to deboard. However, that didn’t happen for another 1 1/2 hours. Apparently, there were no open gates at the airport? I guess once you taxi away from the gate you advance to a point of no return. I sat on that plane for over 2 hours, and after they let us off, was unable to get a later flight out. I was forced to settle for a fight the next morning. I know it’s not the fault of the staff when weather delays or cancels flights, but they could have at least acted like they cared. I found the staff unfriendly and unapologetic.

The woes do not end there. I arrived in Ft. Meade only to learn our mission was scrubbed, I tried to alter my flight departure date from Saturday 5/31/14 to Thursday 5/29/14, but the cost to change the date was $200 + $25 reservation service fee + $125 for the new ticket. Absolutely ridiculous! Instead of throwing money at that absurdity, I spent $180 on a new one-way ticket from Baltimore to Indianapolis with one stop in Chicago from United. I will never fly US Airways again. If you feel you must travel through that airline, be sure to add extra travel insurance or confirm the fees for changes that may come up in your travels before purchasing a ticket. I’m thinking that driving from Indy to Baltimore may be a favorable alternative.