Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Former Guantanamo chief prosecutor testifies -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

ELEANOR HALL: In yet another strange twist in the long running saga of Guantanamo Bay, the former
chief prosecutor on the trials of detainees held there, has today testified as a defence witness
for one of the prisoners.

Colonel Morris Davis prosecuted the case of Australian David Hicks in 2007. But he resigned from
the military commissions soon afterwards, alleging that there had been inappropriate political
interference in the Hicks case.

Now lawyers for another prisoner who is soon to go to trial, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, have called
Colonel Davis to testify at a pre-trial hearing for their client.

National security correspondent, Leigh Sales, is the author of a book on the US facility at
Guantanamo Bay and she continues to follow developments there. She joins us now in The World Today
studio.

So Leigh, first of all, give us some background in this particular case. Who is Salim Ahmed Hamdan?

LEIGH SALES: He is alleged to have been the driver for Osama bin Laden and he was one of the first
detainees to be charged right back in 2004 when David Hicks was first charged.

He is currently facing charges of conspiracy and providing support for terrorism. The other reason
people might know his name is that he was the lead plaintiff in a Supreme Court case that led to
the whole military commissions being thrown out in 2006 and it forced the Bush administration to
make some changes to the rules there.

ELEANOR HALL: Now, how surprising is it that the former chief prosecutor is now being called to
appear on behalf of the defence team in this case?

LEIGH SALES: Well, it's very surprising development. Colonel Morris Davis was a real advocate for
the system at Guantanamo Bay, but he resigned shortly after he prosecuted the case of David Hicks,
alleging that there had been political interference in the process.

And today when he appeared in this Hamdan matter, in a pre-trial hearing, he said that there had
been political interference in terms of which cases should be coming for trial and what evidence
should be used in them.

He said people higher up the food chain than him, civilian people appointed by the Bush
administration, were telling him, well you need to try these particular high value terrorism
detainees so we can boost support for Guantanamo Bay.

ELEANOR HALL: He is not the first person to have made these allegations, is he?

LEIGH SALES: No, he is the latest in a long list of people who have worked on the Guantanamo cases
who claim that the system is unfair and that it is rigged against the detainees.

The top civilian lawyer in the navy, Alberto Mora, ended up leaving and being highly critical.

Two other prosecutors in 2004 resigned because they said the system was so rigged and it's worth
bearing in mind, these people are often Republicans. They are people who are supporters of the war
on terror, who voted for the Bush administration, who support the war in Iraq, yet they believe
this system at Guantanamo Bay is just unfair and does not uphold American values.

ELEANOR HALL: Well, Colonel Davis was very critical of David Hicks lawyer, Major Michael Mori
wasn't he?

LEIGH SALES: That's right. People might remember when all of the rigmarole surrounding the Hicks
case was going on that at one point, Colonel Davis threatened to report Major Mori for making
inappropriate comments about the President and the Vice-President.

So he is a pretty patriotic, you know, straight up and down guy, who was at one time very
supportive of the system.

ELEANOR HALL: So what is going to happen to this system when the Bush administration is finished at
the end of this year? I mean, we've got an extrajudicial system that is up and running around that
US facility. Can it just be got rid of by the new administration?

LEIGH SALES: Well, I think there are two sort of separate tracks going on around Guantanamo. One is
the political side of things. All of the candidates in the current election so Obama, Hillary and
McCain all say that they want to see Guantanamo Bay closed, so it's really a matter of when, not
if, Guantanamo is shut down.

Then that gets us onto the second track which is the legal side of things and what are they going
to do with these prisoners if they close the facility?

ELEANOR HALL: How many are there?

LEIGH SALES: There are about 270 left there now. Some of those are really, really high value people
like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh; people that simply can not be let go.

So in terms of the legal side of things, there is a case currently before the US Supreme Court
called Boumediene versus Bush that might overturn the military commissions again.

There is also a proposal floating around in Washington that they might want to set up a national
security court in place of the military commissions, which would use sitting Federal Court judges
to hear cases.

The prisoners would have less rights than in a regular criminal case, but more than the military
commissions.

ELEANOR HALL: So a long way to go on that one. Leigh Sales thank you.

Leigh Sales, our National Security correspondent.