Military commissions judge wants civilian defense counsel forcibly brought to Guantanamo [update: or Virginia]
Update (Feb 14, 2018 @ ~1230 eastern): The original title of this post was based on my read of Carol Rosenberg’s reporting (quoted below). But, after reviewing the unofficial transcript of yesterday’s proceedings in the al Nashiri case (available here), I get the impression that Colonel Spath wants the civilian attorneys brought to testify remotely, by video teleconference (VTC), from the Mark Center in Alexandria, VA, and not brought to Guantanamo. Colonel Spath stated:
The witness [the civilian defense counsel] clearly refused, through counsel, because I saw the e-mail. And the Attorney Fox said they’re not showing. And I assume he can speak for them since he’s their attorney. And so I can’t see a valid excuse. Again, the e-mail that I was shown said I lack jurisdiction; I don’t. And that the — having to appear at the Mark Center by VTC for DoD civilians employed in D.C. would be oppressive, with no evidence to the contrary.
Transcript at 11909-11910. There are significant optics (if not legal) differences between a warrant of attachment to appear in Virginia and one to appear in Guantanamo.
Air Force Colonel Vance Spath – the chief judge of the Air Force and a judge on the military commissions (and the person who held General Baker in contempt) – apparently wants federal authorities to use force to bring two DoD civilian attorneys to Guantanamo.
Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald reports here that:
The judge in the USS Cole terrorism case ordered prosecutors Tuesday to draft warrants instructing U.S. Marshals to seize two civilian defense attorneys who have quit the case and ignored his orders and a subpoena to appear at the war court.
Air Force Col. Vance Spath, the judge, said he would sign the “writs of attachment” on Wednesday and cautioned from the bench that the lawyer for Pentagon-paid attorneys Rosa Eliades and Mary Spears should hustle to federal court, if the lawyer wants to stop what are essentially arrest warrants.
A warrant of attachment (see R.M.C. 703(e)(2)(G)(i); R.C.M. 703(e)(2)(G)(i)) is a “legal order addressed to an official directing that official to have the person named in the order brought before a court.” R.M.C. 703(e)(2)(G)(i) (discussion). The Manual for Courts-Martial provides the following discussion:
Subpoenas issued under R.C.M. 703 are federal process and a person not subject to the code may be prosecuted in a federal civilian court under Article 47 for failure to comply with a subpoena issued in compliance with this rule and formally served.
Failing to comply with such a subpoena is a felony offense, and may result in a fine or imprisonment, or both, at the discretion of the district court. The different purposes of the warrant of attachment and criminal complaint under Article 47 should be borne in mind. The warrant of attachment, available without the intervention of civilian judicial proceedings, has as its purpose the obtaining of the witness’s presence, testimony, or documents. The criminal complaint, prosecuted through the civilian federal courts, has as its purpose punishment for failing to comply with process issued by military authority. It serves to vindicate the military interest in obtaining compliance with its lawful process.
R.C.M. 703(e)(2)(G)(i) (discussion).
Carol Rosenberg also reports that:
The judge had earlier Tuesday expressed a reluctance to have the women seized. He said in court that their arrests could cause them to lose their security clearances and jobs with the Department of Defense and thwart his goal of having them return to the defense team of Abd al Rahim al Nashiri.
That’s a pretty unrealistic goal, particularly since Rule for Military Commissions 502(d)(3)(C) states that civilian defense counsel in a military commission must:
[have] not been the subject of any sanction of [sic] disciplinary action by any court, bar, or other competent governmental authority for relevant misconduct
Such sanction or disciplinary action seems to be inevitable (if it hasn’t actually happened already). This is – by the way – a unique rule for the Guantanamo commissions; there is no similar limitation on civilian defense counsel in courts-martial.
But even if al-Nashiri’s former civilian defense counsel aren’t disqualified by rule, there’s the fact that now facing a real threat of arrest and involuntary relocation to Guantanamo, they almost certainly have a conflict of interest with the accused.
And we know what that arrest will look like, because it’s happened before. The last person subject to a warrant of attachment from a military commission was demobilized Navy Reserve Lieutenant Commander Stephen Gill – a judge advocate – who (also according to Carol Rosenberg’s reporting):
was picked up at his home, apparently in Massachusetts, on [Tuesday, October 18, 2016] “at gunpoint,” he estimated by 20 officers, put in three-point restraints and held overnight at an Alexandria County, Virginia, detention facility.