As CAAFlog notes below, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces today unanimously affirmed the convictions and sentence of LCDR Matthew Diaz, here. Diaz is the Navy judge advocate that mailed names of GTMO detainees to a human rights lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in a Valentine’s Day card in January 2005. Diaz was a recent recipient of the Ridenhour Truth Telling Prize based on the conduct that won him the conviction at issue in the appeal, a dismissal, and six months in the brig.
Judge Baker, writing for the Court, held that LCDR Diaz should have been allowed to put on evidence of his honorable motives in sending the detainee names to CCR to defend against the charge of Conduct Unbecoming an Officer. Though finding error in excluding evidence of his honorable motives, the Court also found that the military trial judge’s exclusion of the evidence was harmless because the officer’s “obligations to adhere to naval and presidential directives regarding the handling of classified information” trumped any duty he felt he had to reveal the names of GTMO detainees. The Court held that the Supreme Court’s decision in Rasul v. Bush, which LCDR Diaz cited as the source of his duty to reveal detainee names, was not intended to “supersede in some manner [LCDR Diaz’s] other legal and ethical obligations.”
On the irregular plea issue the Court did not take long to find that a plea to conduct unbecoming an officer for releasing “government information not for release” was not the same as releasing “classified documents.” Thus, Judge Baker found that the military judge did not err in rejecting LCDR Diaz’s irregular plea.
The decision also rejected LCDR Diaz’s other argument which challenged the intent element of his conviction under the Espionage Act. In rejecting LCDR Diaz’s challenge to the intent element of his Espionage Act conviction, the Court credited the testimony of government witnesses that testified about the potential injury to the US posed by the information LCDR Diaz sent in the Valentine’s Day card. The Court also found that not only should LCDR Diaz have understood this potential injury, but that his surreptitious method of sending the names, placing them in a Valentine’s Day card, evidenced he likely did know the potential danger.
The issues, while fascinating for their political significance, are relatively run of the mill military justice issues–but between the snow storms and almost Malibu oral argument it was fun getting here.