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Context of 'Mid-September 2001: Former Attorney General Suggests Using Military Commissions in ‘War on Terror’'

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The House Judiciary Committee asks US Attorney General William Barr to appoint an independent counsel to investigate Iraqgate. [Covert Action Quarterly, 1992]

Entity Tags: William P. Barr, House Judiciary Committee

Timeline Tags: US-Iraq 1980s

One of the main questions on the minds of government lawyers is how to criminally prosecute captured members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. A few days after 9/11, William P. Barr, a former attorney general, suggests to Timothy E. Flanigan, deputy White House counsel, to use so-called military commissions. Barr first thought of using such military commissions to try the suspects of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, but this was rejected at the time. “I thought it was a great idea,” Flanigan says. [New York Times, 10/24/2004]

Entity Tags: William P. Barr, Timothy E. Flanigan

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

White House lawyers have become impatient with the interagency group’s (see Shortly Before September 23, 2001) less than full endorsement of the use of military commissions to try suspected terrorists. By late October, Timothy E. Flanigan takes the task of designing a strategy for prosecuting terrorists away from the group and proceeds to focus on military commissions as the only preferable option. The White House lawyers now work more in secret, excluding many agencies and most of the government’s experts in military and international law, but together with the lawyers of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), with the intention of drafting a presidential military order. [New York Times, 10/24/2004] There is a remarkable secrecy surrounding the drafting process (see November 11-13, 2001). Both Attorney General John D. Ashcroft and his deputy, Larry D. Thompson, are closely consulted. But the head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Michael Chertoff is kept out of the loop. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is informed through his general counsel, William J. Haynes. Other Pentagon experts, however, are excluded. [New York Times, 10/24/2004] When the order is signed (see November 13, 2001), many express surprise. “That came like a bolt from the blue,” a former Pentagon official says. “Neither I nor anyone I knew had any insight, any advance knowledge, or any opportunity to comment on the president’s military order.” [Guardian, 6/9/2004] “I can’t tell you how compartmented things were,” retired Rear Adm. Donald J. Guter, the Navy’s Judge Advocate General, later recalls. “This was a closed administration.” [New York Times, 10/24/2004]

Entity Tags: Larry D. Thompson, John Ashcroft, Michael Chertoff, Donald J. Guter, Donald Rumsfeld, William J. Haynes

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Civil Liberties

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