Today, I made another effort to speak with those in attendance at the Theatre. It wasn’t a large crowd. There was one guy who kept to himself (he left at lunch), the lady who polices the door, the two contractors handling the feed, and the wife of one of the prosecuting attorneys. I spent some time talking to the wife and found her very nice. She will be lonely once the trial begins. The attorneys will not be leaving the base until it is over. She did not give many thoughts on the hearings other than they have been going on a long time.
The Hearings: Death Penalty
Defense filed a motion to compel the procedures on the manner in which the Government intends to put Mr. Nashiri to death if he is found guilty. Judge Spath mentioned that the timing for this motion is a bit early because if the defendant is acquitted, then this becomes moot and there are other pressing matters to attend to.
Recently, there was an execution that took almost 2 hours to complete in Arizona. There is debate as to whether this execution was “botched”, resulting in cruel and unusual punishment. Defense wanted to make sure that Mr. Nashiri would not be put to death in a manner thrown together at the last minute or would be executed in an unreliable method. Defense also wanted to know the proposed location of said execution. Mr. Nashiri cannot be moved to U.S. soil (ruled on in a prior hearing that he cannot be moved to the U.S.) and Gitmo does not have the facilities in place (more…)
It was really easy to get onto base. Make sure that you veer off to the right at the main gate to the vehicle inspection station if you don’t have a DoD sticker. If you mess up and go straight, they are nice and just send you off a quick side ramp to the inspection station. Allow plenty of time for DC traffic if you are coming from town. It was terrible, even at 6 am. There are a couple of Starbucks within a short drive of the main gate off base. I’m a coffee nut and need my java in the mornings, so of course, I would figure out where the locations are.
Logistics: Post Theatre
There is parking at the Post Theatre (the Ft. Meade website said to park at Smallwood Hall and walk over, but it’s a distance in heels). I was an hour early. I had plenty of time to talk with the contractors working the Satellite feed. They are really friendly once they were confident I wasn’t a member of the media out to mis-quote them.
Tidbits from the Contractors
Apparently, the Court Room at GTMO is the most hi-tech in the world. I also learned that Mr. Kammen (defense counsel for al Nashiri) wears a kangaroo pin on his lapel as a protest to the court. A kangaroo court, for those unfamiliar with the term, is “a mock court in (more…)
I’ve noticed similar remarks from people when I tell them what I will be doing next week: “Didn’t that happen years ago?” or “That is still going on?”. I think the same thing as I read through the binder of information and did my own research. My husband, also an attorney by trade, and I discussed a lot of the information as I couldn’t help commenting while reading.
Why is it that someone who was captured in 2002, held for four years in secret prisons, charged in 2008 (those were dropped in 2009 when GTMO was SUPPOSED to be closed down), charged again in 2011, is just now getting to pre-trial hearings without release? I skimmed the articles of the Geneva Convention and found myself wondering what we, as a country, are in violation of? Conversely, does the Convention even apply to al-Nashiri as the alleged mastermind of the U.S.S. Cole attacks? Is al-Nashiri a “prisoner of war” (he is referred to as an enemy combatant) as it is meant to be interpreted under the Convention?
These are some of the questions I plan to delve further into this week.
Selection to attend the hearings for the U.S.S. Cole attacks couldn’t have come at a more fitting time. I just returned from my last in-person visit with my little brother before his deployment. I say little in the fact that he is younger than me, but about twice my size in body mass! He is deploying for Afghanistan with the U.S. Army in a couple of weeks. This will be his second tour of duty in that particular conflict. My other brother has a tour of Afghanistan and a tour of Iraq under his belt (both with the Army as well). I see how these deployments affect my family. My parents have nightmares and are on edge. The worst time was when both were simultaneously deployed to Afghanistan a few years ago. Mom use to have nightmares about my youngest brother’s Black Hawk crashing, him taken prisoner, and she going over to rescue him armed with nothing but a wooden spoon (we tease her about that to this day).
Even though I am a Patent Attorney by trade, I have a great personal interest in matters relating to our country’s military and safety. I also believe in fairness. It is a double edged sword for me, but my legal training has taught me that there are two sides to every story. I believe that those on trial for attacks against our country should be accorded due process and fairness – a chance to be heard. If nothing else, it is because I would want the same for my brothers if they were captured and taken prisoner during their deployments.
I live in the D.C. area, so I have the luxury of not making travel arrangements. I work in-house at a very understanding and flexible company, which allows me to take part in this more freely than most other employers would. I look forward to attending the hearings next week at Fort Meade and to sharing my experience.
On June 16, 2014, I attended the hearing of persons accused of masterminding the attacks of 11 September 2001 on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The hearing was aired via a secure video line to Ft. Meade. I have conflicting thoughts about the whole process.
Alleged Mistreatment of 9-11 Defendants
The first thing that caught my attention is the defense team of Ramzi bin al-Shibha (RBS) mentioned that RBS was mistreated repeatedly inside the prison. The prison guards give RBS a hard time. This includes the night just before the hearing when the guards awakened RBS after he just fall asleep. I looked up on the internet and found a video from Al Jazeera Arabic about the same topic (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JBjDntXEOU). The (more…)
Arriving at Ft. Meade, June 16, 2014 I arrived at Ft. Meade a little before 8:00 am on Monday morning to make sure I didn’t miss any of the hearings. After my last experience of missing everything due to a schedule change, I didn’t want to take any chances. Fortunately, there was a very short line to get into the base and I was waived in after telling the guards what I was coming
onto the base for. They seemed surprised that the Military Commission hearings were being broadcast on the base.
Chuck Dunlap and Clarence Leatherbury at the Post Theatre
The next step was to figure out where on the base the theatre was. After stumbling around driving for a while I first (more…)
The USS Cole after it was attacked by suicide bombers in October 2000 in Yemen. (Photo courtesy of United States Marine Corps)
(This article by Marilyn Odendahl was originally published on 4 June 2014 in The Indiana Lawyer at this link) Sitting in a hotel room, preparing to watch a video cast of a hearing with Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, one of the alleged masterminds behind the bombing of the USS Cole, Whitney Coffin considered the process of using military commissions to try suspected terrorists. “Before I actually see the hearing, my pre-impression is this is the best way to do it,” Coffin, a 2014 graduate of Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, said. “Some push to put this in federal courts, but what state is (more…)
What to do at Ft. Meade when Observers are barred from hearings?
The Judge in the al Nashiri case determined that hearings for the remainder of the week were to be classified. NGO Observers, like those of us representing the IU McKinney Military Commission Observation Project, are not permitted to monitor classified hearings.
After receiving word that the hearings were done for the week for us, I scrambled to catch a flight back to Indianapolis on Thursday (what would have been the second day of hearings for this week). I was hopeful that my (more…)
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: A closer picture of the bank and lake. Several paddle boats were tied off on the dock across from Sushi Sono.
After a tour of the base, Kristi and I were able to tour the National Cryptologic Museum before returning home. What is cryptology? Merriam-Webster defines it as the scientific study or art of writing and solving codes. The (more…)
There was a lot of discussion in today’s hearing of the report from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s (SSCI) about the entire Rendition, Detention and Interrogation Program. James Zender’s blog entry covered a lot of the substantive legal issues, so I will just over some of the moments that were particularly memorable.
New attorney added to Prosecution Team
A new attorney was added to the prosecution, which made the final count 12 attorneys for the prosecution and 5 (more…)
Military commissions have a lot in common with what we know as a regular trial that takes place in the US Court system. What differentiates a military commission is that a military commission is a court of law traditionally used to try law of war and related offenses. An alien unprivileged enemy belligerent who has engaged in hostilities, or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States, its coalition partners or was a part of al Qaeda, is subject to trial by military commission under the Military Commissions Act of 2009.
I have read the brief of the Amici Curiae prepared by retired military admirals and generals in support of the defense council who is in opposition to the military commission as the forum to try this case. An amici curiae opinion is an opinion on the case or an issue in the case that is written from an interested third party who is not directly involved in the litigation. There are two points in this brief that particularly struck me: that the attack on the USS Cole occurred at a time where there was no “war”, and secondly that allowing this “retroactive” dating of when a time of war existed would lead to endangerment of American soldiers lives were they to be tried in a military court abroad. I find that these two issues are inherently linked to one another, and I must respectfully, yet strongly, disagree with the assertions from the defense.
“Terrorism” as it is known today is a fairly new concept. I asked my parents if they were worried about “terrorists” and “terror attacks” when they were growing up, and their answers both surprised and saddened me. According to them, a “terrorist”, as they used the term growing up, was an unruly child, one whose actions were unpredictable and wild. Today, kids as young as grade school know a “terrorist” to be someone who has the intent to scare and potentially harm a large group of people. Frankly, the events of 9/11 had to change the definition of terrorism and, subsequently, the rules and regulations that are linked to this concept.
I would argue that we are in a theatre of war whenever we are attacked in connection with an act of terror. The USS Cole attack was undeniably an terrorist attack, one designed to be targeted directly at some of our sailors stationed abroad. Although the President and Congress had not specifically declared a war, in my mind there is no question that attacking a US military ship with a bomb constitutes an act of war. It is for this reason that I disagree with the defense and their arguments that the military commission is inappropriate because it did not occur in a time of war.
The second point that struck me was the assertion that allowing this trial to be held in a military commission would put our own soldiers at risk for trials abroad. One of the greatest qualities of our nation is that we want to treat everyone in a dignified and respectful manner. We are cognizant of the consequences of our actions and want to do our best to secure our soldiers’ safety and security. However, what fails to be mentioned is that not all countries are following the American example. If an American was captured by al Qaeda, the American would not receive increased protection because if his nationality. Rather, the chances that he will be treated with brutality are immensely high.
In their briefing, the defense council described some instances during the second world war and the reign of Hitler. At that time, the American military made sure that German prisoners were treated to the same rations as American soldiers. General Dwight D. Eisenhower said that he did “not want to give Hitler the excuse or justification for treating our soldiers more harshly than he was already doing.” Sadly, the circumstances are not comparable to the situation that is at hand today. Our current conflict is not against a unified armed force that is led by a single commander; we are against individuals who are united under a common enemy, America.
A military commission is a way to let these individuals, who have been accused of war crimes against the United States and our compatriots, a chance to be treated with a level of respect and humanity that would likely not be reciprocated if the roles were reversed. Trying these cases in American federal courts would hinder the administrations of justice because the nature of the beast of war and terror. A military commission affords these individuals a fair trial, complete with zealous advocacy and opportunity. It is the correct forum for this case and is sufficient in ensuring that justice will be administered.
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.
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.
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.
IU McKinney Law Affiliates During Briefing to Monitor Guantanamo Bay trials. Some in the photo are members of Professor Edwards’ Spring 2014 International Law class that studied the international law aspects of the 9-11 attacks, other crimes, and jurisdiction to try such crimes.
Guantanamo Bay Briefing
This photo is the of first group of Indiana University McKinney Law School Affiliates to be part of a Pre-Departure Briefing for monitoring US Military Commission hearings.
The Pentagon awarded IU McKinney’s Program in International Human Rights Law (PIHRL) special “NGO Observer Status” permitting the PIHRL (pronounced “Pearl”) to send IU McKinney Affiliates (students, faculty, staff and graduates) to monitor hearings at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba or at Ft. Meade, Maryland. The training of this first group took place in Indianapolis at the law school on Friday, 11 April 2014.
The MCOP Briefing Book — About 2000 pages on Military Commission law and practice. Participants were also provided copies of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the Protocols Additional.
In the picture are four IU Affiliates who traveled to Ft. Meade in April for hearings in the 9-11 World Trade Center bombing case and the 2000 U.S.S. Cole bombing case. Also pictured are two IU Affiliates who traveled to Guantanamo Bay for hearings in both those cases in April.
Mr. Rick Kammen (center of photo with jeans and light top), who is a lawyer for defendant al Nashiri in the USS Cole Case, lectured on the history of U.S. Military Commissions, substantive and procedural law related to the Guantanamo Bay Military Commissions, litigation strategies, and the logistical difficulties associated with trying cases at a base on an island, away from the Mainland U.S.
Those pictured whose mission was to Ft. Meade are Jeffrey Kerner, Jeff Papa, and Hattie Harman.
Judge Pat Riley (Indiana Court of Appeals) is pictured behing Rick Kammen’s right shoulder.
Professor George Edwards (PIHRL Founding Director & MCOP Founding Director) appears at the far right of the photo.
Absent from the photo above are Jeff Meding (who was in Washington DC for his flight from Andrews Air Force Base to GTMO the next day) and Luke Bielawski, who went to Ft. Meade. Luke is in the photo below.
Left to right: Luke Bielawski (Ft. Meade, USS Cole), Jeffrey Werner (Ft. Meade, 9-11), George Edwards (Ft. Meade, USS Cole; Guantanamo Bay, US v David Hicks), Judge Patricia Riley (Guantanamo Bay, USS Cole), Jeff Papa (Ft. Meade, USS Cole) & Hattie Harman (Ft. Meade, 9-11). Absent is Jeff Meding (Guantanamo Bay, 9-11, who was en route to Andrews for his GTMO flight)
The Pre-DepartureBriefing Book of the MCOP was compiled by Mr. Jeff Meding, Ms. Qifan Wang, Ms. Kristin Brockett, and Professor George Edwards. For each cycle of hearings, a Supplementary Briefing Book will be prepared and distributed to all participants. A copy of our Briefing Book is now permanently housed in the NGO Observer Compound at Guantanamo Bay for subsequent McKinney Affiliates and others to use on their Missions to GTMO for hearings or trials.
Jeff Papa attends U.S. Military Commission (Guantanamo Bay) hearings in the case involving the alleged masterminds of the U.S.S. Cole bombing. The hearings are live at Gitmo & by secure videolink to the Post Theater on the military base at Ft. Meade, Maryland.
Today’s hearings were on the case of the alleged masterminds of the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, a naval ship harbored in Yemen in 2000. Judge Pat Riley (Indiana Court of Appeals) from our team is in Guantanamo Bay, sitting in the courtroom. Luke Bielawski and I are at Ft. Meade, Maryland, watching the Guantanamo proceedings on secure videolink.
What’s on for Today? A Question of Reprisals
The Commission hearings covered several interesting issues today. The most interesting issue was the last item discussed.
The defense has requested information about third party civilian deaths and collateral damage caused by US or coalition forces in order to consider a defense of reprisal.
Judge Pohl began by pointing out that the government alleges that reprisal is only a defense if the defendant is a state actor. The defense agreed, but reserved the right to argue that Nashiri is a state actor. The defense claimed that this is relevant to his state of mind and any ability to participate in the governments alleged far-flung conspiracy. This could show extenuation and mitigation.
Judge Pohl followed up on this by asking if you would have to show that the defendant knew about these very specific actions or just that he knew (more…)
Glad to review the MCOP Briefing Book on the plane to the East Coast — Most Helpful! Thanks to Mr. Jeff Meding, Ms. Qifan Wang, Ms. Krisitn Brockett & Professor Edwards!
Early Arrival at the Ft. Meade Military Base Venue I arrived this morning promptly at 7:45. I did not want to be late. I never want to be late in the first place, but seeing as how I was now on a military base, I felt that the importance of punctuality was increased even more. I even neatly made my bed and folded the towels at the army hotel on base before I left for the proceedings!
I sat alone for a good hour in the broadcast room (I will call it the lecture hall because that is exactly what it reminds me of: a college lecture hall!) waiting for others to arrive and wondering if I was in the right place. I spent the time alone to once again go over the briefing book.
Others finally show up! At 8:45 six people arrived at once. One of the blog posts from last week had said that the media are transported to Smallwood Hall all at once so I figured that they were a part of the media.
Two of the young men that were among the group are bloggers for a think tank in Washington. They both asked me if I was with the commission. They thought that I was because of the large briefing book that I had by my side. Kudos to you Professor George Edwards, Mr. Jeff Medding, Ms. Qifan Wang, and Ms. Kristen Brockett! The binder obviously looks very professional and everyone looked at McKinney Law as an expert in these proceedings! So the binder has proven itself to be useful for more than briefing us on the proceedings!
Show Time — 9:00 a.m.! The proceedings began promptly at 9 o’clock. The defense counsel for defendant al Nashiri, Mr. Kammen first offered an apology to the judge. Apparently the defense had made a clerical error the previous day and was unaware of one (more…)
Luke Bielawski, who is a recent graduate of the Indiana University McKinney School of Law, recently traveled to the military base at Ft. Meade, Maryland to monitor the Guantanamo Bay hearings in the U.S.S. Cole case, with one of the defendants being al Nashiri. At Ft. Meade, the hearings are broadcast live via a secure video-link. We are re-posting some of his photos that demonstrate his excitement and enthusiasm about his Mission. More reports by Luke can be found elsewhere on this Military Commission Observation Project (MCPO) Blog. If any other IU McKinney students, faculty, staff of graduates wish to travel to Ft. Meade or Guantanamo Bay on a MCOP Mission, please follow this link and register: MCOP Registration.
Packing for my week at Fort Meade for the Guantanamo Bay Hearings
Even though I’m not in the court room at Gitmo, I’m still representing McKinney Law School and Indiana, so I want to look my best!
Waiting for departure…
ALMOST everything I’ve learned about the GTMO proceedings has come from popular media outlets. I’m excited to get a first hand view on what is going on. A bit ironic that the news right before I boarded was covering the War on Terror and Al’Qaeda