Thursday, May 17, 2007

What does Rule of Law mean?

One Navy lawyer thought the Rule of Law meant that our government is supposed to follow the law and respect the legal rights of the accused.

That quaint notion has already cost him his career (18 years in the Navy) and may well cost him a few years in the brig.

06:03 PM CDT on Thursday, May 17, 2007
By BROOKS EGERTON / The Dallas Morning News

NORFOLK, Va. – Matt Diaz was a Navy lawyer with 18 years of military experience when duty called at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Six months there broke him.

Navy officer Matt Diaz put his career on the line when he disclosed the names of Guantanamo Bay detainees to a civil liberties group. Now, in a case that reflects the fierce dissent within the U.S. government over the war on terrorism, the lieutenant commander faces a court-martial that could send him to prison for at least 14 years. A jury convicted him late Thursday, and the sentencing phase of the case is set to begin Friday.

Cmdr. Diaz is on trial because of actions he took after concluding – as many of higher rank have – that the Bush administration's offshore detention camp for terrorism suspects was making a mockery of American justice.

"My oath as a commissioned officer is to the Constitution of the United States," Cmdr. Diaz told The Dallas Morning News in his first public comments on the case. "I'm not a criminal."

In early 2005, as he was concluding a six-month tour of duty as a Guantanamo legal adviser, Cmdr. Diaz sent an anonymous note to a New York civil liberties group containing the names of the detainees.

He thought he was doing the right thing. He thought he was following the law because he was a lawyer and thought that the US Supreme Court was the supreme law of the land. Turns out he was wrong about that.
The Center for Constitutional Rights had earlier won a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that terrorism suspects had the right to challenge their detention. But the Pentagon was refusing to identify the men, hampering the group's effort to represent them.

"I had observed the stonewalling, the obstacles we continued to place in the way of the attorneys," the 41-year-old officer said. "I knew my time was limited. … I had to do something."

In doing so, the government contends, Cmdr. Diaz committed a variety of crimes, including disobeying regulations and transmitting secret defense information that "could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation." The jury convicted him on four of five counts.

This is just disgusting.

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