Former Guantanamo Prosecutor Wrongly Fired for Speaking Out

Published on truthout, by Yana Kunichoff, 08 December 2009.

A former Guantanamo prosecutor was wrongfully fired by a government agency for writing critical op-eds about military commissions, according to the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union). The civil rights organization alleges that the firing violated the ex-prosecutor’s First Amendment and due process rights.

Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo military commissions, was dismissed from his position at the Congressional Research Service CRS for opinion articles he wrote about the commissions in The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is representing Davis, said the firing violated the First Amendment because Davis was writing in the capacity of a private citizen about matters not relating to his position at the CRS. The ACLU is calling for Davis to be returned to his position to avoid the possibility of litigation …

… In the first  of his articles which caused the furor, published in The Wall Street Journal on November 10, 2009, Davis wrote about the decision to try Guantanamo detainees in both federal and military courts.

“A decision to use both legal settings is a mistake. It will establish a dangerous legal double standard that gives some detainees superior rights and protections, and relegates others to the inferior rights and protections of military commissions. This will only perpetuate the perception that Guantanamo and justice are mutually exclusive,” he wrote.

“Double standards don’t play well in Peoria. They won’t play well in Peshawar or Palembang either. We need to work to change the negative perceptions that exist about Guantanamo and our commitment to the law. Formally establishing a legal double standard will only reinforce them.”

The sources used in his Wall Street Journal article, as well as in an opinion piece  published by The Washington Post on November 11, 2009, were based on either publicly available documents, such as a reporting submitted to President Obama by the Detention Policy Task Force, or his own previous experience. All pieces were written outside of his work hours …

…The CRS has taken flack before for its lack of transparency – Open CRS.org, a project of the Center for Democracy and Technology, calls for easier access to the tax-funded political reports.

Critics see this trend inherent in the wrongful firing of Davis.

“Given the enormous public interest in receiving speech on this subject and Col. Davis’s unique experience as a prosecutor,” ACLU’s letter stated, “it is highly unlikely that the Library would be able to sustain its burden of demonstrating that its interests outweigh Col. Davis’s and the public’s First Amendment rights.” (full text).

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