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Old 07-31-2008, 11:14 PM
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Hamdan Trial

Reading the following news release gave me pause. I think there is a certain aura of authenticity or truth associated with national security issues that might bias the jury in favor of that evidentiary source. It's the difference between handing you a typed page of facts and handing you exactly the same typed page of facts but telling you the facts are "Top Secret".

Beng classified doesn't necessarily mean the data are accurate, complete, and honest. It could be that the data were classified because revealing the source could do irreparable harm to the interests of the USA.

Anyway, what do you think of this?

B

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

US holds 1st secret session of war crimes court
By MIKE MELIA, Associated Press Writer
Thu Jul 31, 7:52 PM ET

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - The U.S. military closed a session of a Guantanamo war crimes trial to journalists and other observers Thursday for the presentation of classified evidence a first for the tribunal system created to prosecute alleged terrorists.

Anyone without a security clearance was forced to leave the courtroom for the testimony of two witnesses for Osama bin Laden's driver, Salim Hamdan. The defendant stayed in the courtroom.

The witnesses were U.S. Army special forces officers Col. Morgan Banks, a psychologist, and Lt. Col. G. John Taylor, an attorney. Officials did not say why their testimony had to be kept secret.

Hamdan, one of 21 Guantanamo prisoners charged so far, faces up to life in prison if convicted of conspiracy and supporting terrorism at the first U.S. war crimes trial since World War II.

His Pentagon-appointed attorney, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer, said that under court rules he was permitted to disclose only that the two witnesses were at the United States' Bagram air base in Afghanistan when Hamdan was taken there by U.S. forces in December 2001.

"It is my hope that the American public will someday hear Mr. Hamdan's defense," Mizer said in an e-mail before the session.

Some witnesses at Hamdan's trial have been identified only by numbers or their initials, and security officers have cut off audio to observers at pretrial hearings of other detainees to conceal classified information.

But Thursday's session marked the first time the Bush administration's military tribunals at this U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba have taken testimony in secret, according to Air Force Capt. Paula Bissonette, a tribunals spokeswoman.

The chief prosecutor for the tribunals, Army Col. Lawrence Morris, said the government wants to keep the trials as open as possible.

"It is a balance between the goal of openness ... and the need to address some national security concerns," he said.

The prosecution rested its case earlier Thursday following testimony from a Naval Criminal Investigative Service interrogator, Robert McFadden, who said Hamdan swore allegiance to bin Laden.

Hamdan's lawyers argue he was merely a low-level bin Laden employee, and the Yemeni prisoner has denied swearing loyalty to the al-Qaida chief.

The defense team attempted to block McFadden's testimony, arguing his May 2003 interrogation of Hamdan at Guantanamo was conducted under coercive conditions. But the judge, Navy Capt. Keith Allred, rejected those claims in a heavily redacted ruling Thursday.

Allred said confinement at Guantanamo is "undoubtedly an unpleasant, highly regimented experience, with instant rewards or loss of privileges for infractions." But his ruling said the various disciplinary actions against Hamdan did not have any bearing on the interrogation.

Sahr MuhammedAlly, a lawyer with Human Rights First who has been observing Hamdan's trial, said the judge's ruling and the closed session raise doubts about the tribunals' transparency.

"They say it's fair and open, but secrecy affects every part of these proceedings," MuhammedAlly said.

Military prosecutors plan trials for about 80 of the roughly 265 foreign men held at Guantanamo. So far only one detainee has been convicted: Australian David Hicks, who pleaded guilty under an agreement that sent him home to serve a nine-month prison sentence.
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Old 07-31-2008, 11:48 PM
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i think it's all war crimes disguised as theater. And that invading a country and then removing people to some secret prison/torture chamber is illegal and immoral.

The United States is still playing the "great game" of the 19th century.
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Old 08-01-2008, 07:32 PM
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I'm not a big fan of it. Very little information is actually all that dangerous. Spill the beans on the SEALs exact missions in the next month, they'll just find other ways. Bad guys do something, we figure out how to stop it. We do something, they figure out how to stop it. They burn an agent, we turn another. We crack an informant, they figure it out and change plans. Human ingenuity is the battle. Nothing lasts forever, so trying to keep it secret is pointless.
Second, I like the idea that we are (supposed to be) an open society. That our government is (supposed to be) transparent to the people who are (supposed to be) represented by it and in charge of it. And I don't think it necessarily hampers things. When Earl Campbell played RB for the Houston Oilers, everybody knew he was getting the ball on 3rd and goal. It didn't matter much.



Aside from all that, this administration has aptly shown how this national security classification can be abused to the detriment of a free society.
In this particular instance, we can't know if it was appropriate to keep the press out. I have less of a problem with this kind of thing, where the security issue doesn't hamper defense or shut down the case, and there are people of our society who are hearing it and making the decision (ie the jury).
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Old 08-02-2008, 08:12 PM
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Spill the beans on a SEAL mission and they will die, unless they know the beans have been spilled.

An awful lot of classified intelligence is not due to operation considerations (though your example is an excellent example of how people mis-understand operational intelligence). We don't want enemies to learn anything about how or when we gather information. Once they learn our operational parameters, the enemy will adjust his own operations to thwart our means and methods. The taxpayers ultimately pay for the toys so compromising them costs us a lot of money, not to mention the information itself.

As an example, early in the invasion of Afghanistan a reporter asked one of the senators (a Republican, IIRC) how we were able to track Bin Laden. He said something like, "Oh, that's easy, as long as his satphone is on, whether or not he is transmitting, we can triangulate his position within a few miles." Within a day or so of that revelation Bin Laden's folks quit using satphones. You want to blame somebody for losing Bin Laden in Tora Bora? There's your boy.

That was not the first time a member of Congress, or even a president, had revealed highly classified info. Jimmy Carter is the one who revealed stealth technology in order to make a point in a debate with Reagan. Reagan was pushing Carter on B1 bomber funding and Carter said we didn't need the B1 because we had aircraft that were invisible to radar.

Did the taxpayer need to know those little nuggets? Did anybody get hurt because of the revelations? If you were in the CIA or DIA would you like the idea of briefing Congressmen on means and methods of intelligence? How much would you tell a committee that was on your ass?

B
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Old 08-02-2008, 10:30 PM
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I don't mind it one bit, the public doesn't need to know everything in times of war.
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Old 08-02-2008, 10:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hatterasguy View Post
I don't mind it one bit, the public doesn't need to know everything in times of war.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hatterasguy
...Could the government be any more useless? I mean we pay these morons several trillion every year, and get less and less. What a crappy investment.
I'm having trouble reconciling these comments. You find our government to be incompetent and/or corrupt, yet you have no problem with this same government conducting secret trials on matters of political interest to the administration.
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Old 08-02-2008, 10:58 PM
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No its a military trial, I value the military far more than the government. If the military doesn't want some info to get out so they must have a good reason.
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Old 08-02-2008, 11:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Botnst View Post
Spill the beans on a SEAL mission and they will die, unless they know the beans have been spilled.
I wrote in the next month. Obviously if you burn them while they are there, they will likely die. But, not to sound callous, the war is not lost if one SEAL team were to die. Naturally I would like to avoid that possibility, and I don't mind that SEAL missions (or any other operations) are kept secret. If their future missions are leaked, they will find another way. That's their job.

Quote:
An awful lot of classified intelligence is not due to operation considerations (though your example is an excellent example of how people mis-understand operational intelligence). We don't want enemies to learn anything about how or when we gather information. Once they learn our operational parameters, the enemy will adjust his own operations to thwart our means and methods. The taxpayers ultimately pay for the toys so compromising them costs us a lot of money, not to mention the information itself.
Can you guarantee they will never learn our operational parameters? It occurs to me that eventually we will need to form new ones as ours will never last forever, even if nothing is leaked. Everything evolves. We don't just come up with a means and stick to it or give up.

Quote:
As an example, early in the invasion of Afghanistan a reporter asked one of the senators (a Republican, IIRC) how we were able to track Bin Laden. He said something like, "Oh, that's easy, as long as his satphone is on, whether or not he is transmitting, we can triangulate his position within a few miles." Within a day or so of that revelation Bin Laden's folks quit using satphones. You want to blame somebody for losing Bin Laden in Tora Bora? There's your boy.
Did we stop trying to find Bin Laden because of that? Or was he simply a lower priority what with the new war started? Is the satphone thing the absolute reason why he isn't dead yet? I highly doubt that. I also highly doubt we hung our entire strategy on his satphone. Nor did we succefully terminate him when he was using it, so it's efficacy can be questioned let alone it's importance. Forget losing Bin Laden in Tora Bora. Clinton should've hit him while he had the chance. Because he didn't, that doesn't mean we give up. How would you have liked to know back when it happened that Clinton declined to fire?

Quote:
That was not the first time a member of Congress, or even a president, had revealed highly classified info. Jimmy Carter is the one who revealed stealth technology in order to make a point in a debate with Reagan. Reagan was pushing Carter on B1 bomber funding and Carter said we didn't need the B1 because we had aircraft that were invisible to radar.
And we have the plane that is invisible to radar. Everybody knows we have it. Everybody has known about it. No one has shot one down because of Carter's alleged mention of it. We didn't have to go back to the drawing board and invent a whole new plane. The stealth planes are an example of my Earl Campbell analogy.
SDI is another one. Eventually it got out - did that kill the idea? Nope.
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Old 08-02-2008, 11:06 PM
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Can you guarantee they will never learn our operational parameters? It occurs to me that eventually we will need to form new ones as ours will never last forever, even if nothing is leaked. Everything evolves. We don't just come up with a means and stick to it or give up.
Yeah but you don't leak them on purpose. Of course they change, buy you have to milk the currant ones as much as possible.
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Old 08-03-2008, 01:15 AM
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No its a military trial, I value the military far more than the government. If the military doesn't want some info to get out so they must have a good reason.
The military does a lot of things well (so does the rest of the Federal government, but that's another issue), but I don't see any reason to think that it runs trials better than our civilian courts. In fact, if the people running these military trials are taking their lead from the current Commander in Chief, then we have ample reason to worry about the integrity of the process.

I'm not saying that the Hamdan case is not being done properly, but there is plenty of reason to be concerned.
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Old 08-03-2008, 09:30 AM
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...
Did we stop trying to find Bin Laden because of that? Or was he simply a lower priority what with the new war started? Is the satphone thing the absolute reason why he isn't dead yet? I highly doubt that. I also highly doubt we hung our entire strategy on his satphone....
I failed to make myself clear.

Would you not agree that the only way we keep the enemy from learning our means and methods is by keeping our means and methods secret?

Concerning the satphone incident in particular.....

Of course nobody can say anything hypothetical with "absolute" certainty. If we want absolute certainty we must avoid all human endeavors at all cost.

It would a stupid blunder indeed to use a single source and single method to pursue any project that includes an unknown number of variables.

Bin Laden's group now uses couriers for communication. Also, Bin Laden once used natural backdrops -- a rock formation, a village. Analysis used those backdrops to locate Bin Laden. Congressmen disclosed that bit, too. Almost immediately all backdrops were cloth or a wall.

Would you argue that we would be more or less confident where Bin Laden might be located if the satphone incident and the backdrop incedents had NOT been revealed?

B
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Old 08-03-2008, 11:08 AM
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I failed to make myself clear.

Would you not agree that the only way we keep the enemy from learning our means and methods is by keeping our means and methods secret?

Concerning the satphone incident in particular.....

Of course nobody can say anything hypothetical with "absolute" certainty. If we want absolute certainty we must avoid all human endeavors at all cost.
I would agree that it is impossible to keep our means and methods secret until the enemy is beaten. As they (Franks?) so often said, the enemy gets a vote. The enemy will adjust.
I'm not saying publicize everything we plan, but we go into it knowing that the enemy will adjust, and it may not matter if he does because we've chosen the right means and methods.

Quote:
Bin Laden's group now uses couriers for communication. Also, Bin Laden once used natural backdrops -- a rock formation, a village. Analysis used those backdrops to locate Bin Laden. Congressmen disclosed that bit, too. Almost immediately all backdrops were cloth or a wall.

Would you argue that we would be more or less confident where Bin Laden might be located if the satphone incident and the backdrop incedents had NOT been revealed?

B
I would argue that 1)the satphone+backdrops were not successful in capturing or killing him, and that 2)we have compromised the effectiveness of OBL's communications.
I do think it was stupid to publicize the satphone thing, but it's not the end of the world. I don't think it should've been redacted from documents, or used to kill cases before federal courts, as the Nat'l Security issue has been used and abused by the administration.
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Old 08-03-2008, 11:41 AM
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1. I would agree that it is impossible to keep our means and methods secret until the enemy is beaten. As they (Franks?) so often said, the enemy gets a vote. The enemy will adjust.
I'm not saying publicize everything we plan, but we go into it knowing that the enemy will adjust, and it may not matter if he does because we've chosen the right means and methods.

2. I would argue that 1)the satphone+backdrops were not successful in capturing or killing him, and that 2)we have compromised the effectiveness of OBL's communications.

3. I do think it was stupid to publicize the satphone thing, but it's not the end of the world. I don't think it should've been redacted from documents, or used to kill cases before federal courts, as the Nat'l Security issue has been used and abused by the administration.
1. That is how things are done -- assume everybody knows everything and then make contingencies for each potentially compromised source, means, and method. It doesn't always work. However, the more effectively that the secrets are kept, the greater the likelihood of success and the fewer people get stuffed into body bags. I prefer Americans not die. Secrecy protects America's military and clandestine and covert operators and operatives. Not having the sources, means and methods compromised increases the probability of success. Also, and a very significant consideration, maintaining secrecy concerning sources, methods and means keeps the cost to the taxpayer down.

2. Of course they were unsuccessful in capturing & killing top Al Qaeda officers early in the war -- that's the whole point. Had our means and methods NOT been compromised it would have allowed our armed forces and clandestine services to continue in their use of those means and methods. However, goofballs in Congress, in on-air interviews, undermined the efficacy of those particular tools. If a person's location can be reduced to 500 ha to 1,000 ha, it means that remote observation systems suddenly have great value. Locating any small object using remote sensing is extremely difficult and highly time-dependent. Remote systems cannot monitor a particular part of the planet 24/7 with resolution sufficient to differentiate an individual, especially a moving individual. Nor can remote systems identify an individual even if he or she is detected. Ancillary sources aren't just important, they are absolutely critical. Otherwise, we end up killing innocent people every time we pull the trigger. That's a hell of a way to run a war.

Remote sensing is an extremely stupid way to pursue an individual. Remote sensing is great for terrain info and detection and disposition of equipment. But it cannot substitute for eyeballs on the ground.

For your own test go to Google Earth and look at the mountain range from say, .... the Khyber Pass to Iran. Use the 3-D mode. Imagine trying to find and identify a group of people in those mountains without using ancillary data sources.

B
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Old 08-03-2008, 09:05 PM
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This thread started out as a commentary on the hamdan trial.

f.y.i. the military authorities at gitmo said, a few days ago, that even if hamdan is found innocent, he will not be released.

kind of makes the whole trial irrelevant?

comments?
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Old 08-03-2008, 09:28 PM
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This thread started out as a commentary on the hamdan trial.

f.y.i. the military authorities at gitmo said, a few days ago, that even if hamdan is found innocent, he will not be released.

kind of makes the whole trial irrelevant?

comments?
Yes.

The whole thing if f**ked-up.

Are they POW's? If so, then they stay incarcerated for the duration of the war. That's the convention from the days of the code of chivalry, from which our modern Geneva Conventions derive.

But the administration argues that since they do not represent a State, that they are not legal combatants. If not legal combatants then the Geneva Conventions don't apply to them. That is how they justified harsh interrogation -- clearly a violation of the Conventions.

Some people argue that if they are not legal combatants then they come under civilian laws and jurisdiction. But they were obviously not arrested legally with all of the protection of evidence, etc. So by our rules of civilian law, they would probably be released due to lack of evidence. Anybody think that's a good idea?

I think what the military intends to do is, regardless of what the court finds concerning Hamdan, they will assume custody and treat him as a legal enemy combatant which will allow them to hold in until the war is over. I don't like that option, either.

It's all f**ked up.

Too bad he didn't die on the battlefield.
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