National Security

Is Pentagon using Guantanamo trials to influence election?

The Navy lawyer for Osama bin Laden's driver has accused senior Pentagon officials of orchestrating war crimes prosecutions of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to influence the outcome of the 2008 presidential campaign.

In a brief filed Thursday, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer describes a Sept. 29, 2006, meeting at the Pentagon in which Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, a veteran White House appointee, asked lawyers to consider Sept. 11, 2001, prosecutions in light of the campaign.

''We need to think about charging some of the high-value detainees because there could be strategic political value to charging some of these detainees before the election,'' England is quoted as saying. Former chief Guantanamo prosecutor, Air Force Col. Morris Davis, recounted the England remark after he resigned, claiming political interference.

The Defense Department has steadfastly maintained that its war-time prosecution policy is fair and affords accused terrorists extraordinary rights. Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, declined to discuss specifics. "I can tell you emphatically that leadership has always been extraordinarily careful to guard against any unlawful command influence,'' he said.

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