A Navy spokesman, Lt. Commander Chito Peppler, criticizes Abraham for "apparently biased insinuations" and says that Abraham wasn't involved with the review tribunals long enough to come to informed conclusions about the process. That, however, was the direct result of what he found: according to his statement, after Abraham recommended a certain detainee was improperly classified as an enemy combatant, the head of the Pentagon office in charge of the tribunals, Rear Admiral James McGarrah, overruled him -- and Abraham "was not assigned to another [Combatant Status Review Tribunal] panel."
But what drove him to speak out was an accident. Abraham's sister works for Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, a leading law firm representing Guantanamo detainees -- Pentagon official Cully Stimson referred to Pillsbury last year in his infamous statement urging a "boycott" of firms taking up detainees' cases -- and learned through one of her colleagues that McGarrah had submitted a statement in a Pillsbury-represented case swearing to the fairness of the process. He decided to challenge his former boss, and on the particular case that sparked their disagreement, McGarrah doesn't come out looking very well.
One of the tribunals the lawyers have learned more about since then was the one on which Colonel Abraham sat. Documents they have gathered show that he was assigned to the panel in November 2004. The detainee was a Libyan, captured in Afghanistan, who was said to have visited terrorist training camps and belonged to a Libyan terrorist organization.
By a vote of 3 to 0, the panel found that âthe detainee is not properly classified as an enemy combatant and is not associated with Al Qaeda or Taliban.â
Two months later, apparently after Pentagon officials rejected the first decision, the detaineeâs case was heard by a second panel. The conclusion, again by a vote of 3 to 0, was quite different: âThe detainee is properly classified as an enemy combatant and is a member of or associated with Al Qaeda.â
Abraham, who received decorations for a counterintelligence operation against the Soviets in the 1980s, tells the Times that much of the evidence used in the tribunal process doesn't pass basic scrutiny to an experienced intelligence officer. "I would have written 'junk statement' across that," he says of cases where detainees are classified as jihadists due to such generic information as their participation against the 1980s anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan. In the fall, when the Supreme Court hears the habeas case, we'll know if the Court will stamp the same designation on the administration's argument that constitutional protections don't apply to Guantanamo detainees. More likely than not, that's thanks in some part to Abraham's decision to come forward.