Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Friday, November 09, 2007

  Pentagon is blocking a Congressional investigation again

Since Democrats took control of Congress in January, the Pentagon has been increasingly obstreperous toward the original branch of government. In particular, the military has taken to prohibiting service members from testifying to Congress in high profile investigations. Yesterday the Pentagon did it again, instructing a Marine lawyer that he was not permitted to testify at today’s hearings on enhanced drowning waterboarding before the House Judiciary Committee. This comes in the midst of the battle over the nomination of Michael Mukasey, a man who pretends that he doesn’t know whether enhanced drowning constitutes torture.

From the Associated Press:

A Marine Corps lawyer told a House subcommittee Thursday the Pentagon blocked him from testifying that harsh interrogation methods tripped up his prosecution of a suspected terrorist…

"The Department of Defense has decided I cannot testify," Marine Lt. Col. V. Stuart Couch wrote to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich. "Please be advised that I am willing to testify before the subcommittee in the event I am allowed to do so."…

Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., noted Couch had made speeches and his story published in The Wall Street Journal.

"These are not state secrets," Nadler said of Couch's account. "It is disgraceful that the administration would allow Colonel Couch to make after-dinner speeches about the subject matter, to talk at length to the press about the subject matter, but (be) prohibited from testifying before a duly constituted committee of the Congress."…

A Marine Corps pilot and prosecutor, Couch told the Journal that he refused to proceed with the prosecution of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, accused of helping assemble a terrorist cell that included the hijacker who steered United Flight 175 into the World Trade Center.

Couch halted Slahi's prosecution because he concluded that Slahi's incriminating statements had been obtained through beatings and psychological torture.

"In our zeal to get information, we had compromised our ability to prosecute him," Couch told the paper.

Outlandish: Torturing a suspect; destroying any legal case against him in the process; and obstructing a Congressional investigation. The Corps claims that its objections to Couch’s testimony to Congress was merely that it feared he would compromise further cases that he had worked on.

But recently the Pentagon has established a nasty record of obstructing investigations that would tend to embarrass it. For example, in March I was commenting about a House Government Oversight Committee investigation into Walter Reed Army Medical Center:

On Friday the House Committee subpoena'd [the former commander of WRAMC, Maj. Gen.] Weightman after the Army refused to permit him to testify—without offering "a satisfactory explanation for the decision to prevent General Weightman from testifying,” according to the Committee letter issued that day.

Parenthetically, I'd ask you to consider just how brazen the US military has become in stiff-arming investigations into wrong-doing. Earlier this week, it essentially blocked US District Court Judge Marcia Cooke's investigation into the conditions of captivity of Jose Padilla and his deteriorating state of mind. One of Padilla's guards, who'd observed his mental condition in captivity, a guard who had since been moved overseas, was scheduled to testify to the court by phone. However he wasn't on hand, somehow, when the phone call was placed.

And at the end of the week it refused to permit Waxman's Committee to hear testimony from the fired head of Walter Reed. You don't suppose that this kind of arrogant treatment of the other two branches of government is being rewarded by the Executive?

The question appears to become more pressing with every passing week.

The letter sent to Lt. Col. Couch on Wednesday blocking his testimony, incidentally, came from William J. Haynes II. As General Counsel at the DoD, he is one of the government lawyers most closely associated with developing the so-called torture memos (Haynes appointed John Yoo to the task of drawing up a rationale why the president could circumvent the clear meaning of international treaties banning torture). Haynes also was involved in developing and implementing the decision to deny to captives held at Guantanamo the protection of either the Geneva Conventions or of constitutional guarantees of due process.

In other words, Haynes’ letter prevented Couch from testifying to Congress about crimes at Guantanamo that he played a large role in generating. In a normal world, Haynes’ interference with the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing might be construed as obstruction of justice.

crossposted from

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