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Ackerman writes: "The Guantanamo Bay military tribunals on Wednesday won their first conviction without a plea deal since 2008. Only it wasn't a terrorist who was convicted - it was a one-star Marine general sticking up for the rights of the accused to have a fair trial."

Brigadier General John Baker was sentenced to 21 days confinement. (photo: Getty)
Brigadier General John Baker was sentenced to 21 days confinement. (photo: Getty)

ALSO SEE: Gitmo Judge Sends Marine
General Lawyer to 21 Days Confinement for Disobeying Orders

Gitmo Judge Convicts US General - Because He Stood Up for Detainee Rights

By Spencer Ackerman, The Daily Beast

02 November 17

Brigadier General John Baker protested the government’s surveillance of Guantanamo Bay defense lawyers. And that got him sentenced to 21 days in confinement.

he Guantanamo Bay military tribunals on Wednesday won their first conviction without a plea deal since 2008. Only it wasn’t a terrorist who was convicted – it was a one-star Marine general sticking up for the rights of the accused to have a fair trial.

In defending the principle that attorneys ought to be able to defend their clients free from government surveillance, Brigadier General John Baker was ruled in contempt of court and sentenced to 21 days in confinement. He also must pay a $1000 fine.

Baker is a senior officer within in the highly controversial military commissions process: the Chief of Defense Counsel. Maj. Ben Sakrisson, the Pentagon spokesman for detentions, confirmed that Baker is being confined in his quarters – at Guantanamo Bay.

“The military commissions are willing to put people in jail for defending the rule of law,” Jay Connell, who represents another Guantanamo detainee facing a military commission, told The Daily Beast. “If they’re willing to put a Marine general in jail for standing up for a client’s rights, they’re willing to do just anything.”

Baker’s sentence Wednesday was first reported by Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald, the only reporter actually at Guantanamo and who saw the hearing. He outranks the judge who sentenced him, Air Force Colonel Vance Spath.

The shocking development at Guantanamo, described as a “national disgrace and an embarrassment” by the executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, came on the same day President Donald Trump publicly mulled detaining accused New York terror suspect Sayfullo Saipov at Guantanamo. (As a lawful permanent resident, Saipov is likely ineligible for a war-crimes trial under the 2009 Military Commission Act, which specified the court is for non-Americans, even if the Pentagon decided his alleged acts rose to the level of a war crime.)

The path that led to Baker’s contempt confinement started with a group resignation and a clash with Spath.

Earlier this month, three civilian attorneys for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the accused bomber of the USS Cole in 2000, abruptly quit the death-penalty case. The attorneys said that they had significant reason to believe the government was listening in to their communications. Spath, the judge in the Nashiri case, barred them from discussing the issue with Nashiri, since it was classified. Nashiri had lost his lawyers without ever knowing exactly why.

It is not the first time that concerns over government spying have rocked the Guantanamo military tribunals. In 2014, pre-trial hearings for the accused 9/11 co-conspirators snarled after defense attorneys revealed indications that the FBI had turned their technical adviser into a secret informant, prompting the judge in that case to prohibit monitoring attorney-client communications in November 2016. And in 2013, in the same case, the CIA cut the audio feed at the war court before an attorney discussed an aspect of the defendants’ confinement at undisclosed CIA “black site” prisons.”

Baker supported the Nashiri attorneys’ decision to quit – and believed he, as chief defense counsel, had all sufficient authority to permit them to walk. Baker released them on October 11. But, facing the prospect of the Nashiri death-penalty commission snarling to a halt, Spath disagreed, and ordered them to return to Guantanamo.

Instead, Baker showed up at the war court this week, without now ex-Nashiri attorney Rick Kammen and Kammen’s team. Spath instructed Baker to change his mind and instruct Kammen and the two other attorneys that they still represent Nashiri. Baker did not, believing that Spath lacked the authority to do so. On Wednesday, Spath held Baker in contempt and ordered him to 21 days’ confinement in his Guantanamo quarters.

Connell, who represents 9/11 co-defendant Ammar al-Baluchi, said all this could have been avoided had the government simply not spied on the Nashiri team, “or allowed the defense counsel to discuss this issue with their client.” He added that Baker’s sentencing did not settle the issue of who in the military commissions process – a judge in a specific case, or the Chief of Defense Counsel – has final say over an attorney quitting.

“It will come up again the next time someone tries to resign or otherwise leave the case,” Connell said. He did not know if other Guantanamo defense lawyers would resign in protest.

Baker had a history of supporting unmonitored attorney communications, which are a bedrock principle of civilian trials. In June, shortly after learning of the suspected surveillance on the Nashiri lawyers, he advised defense attorneys “not to conduct any attorney-client meetings at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (GTMO), until they know with certainty that improper monitoring of such meetings is not occurring,” according to a letter obtained by the Miami Herald.

“At present,” Baker continued, “I am not confident that the prohibition on improper monitoring of attorney-client meetings at GTMO as ordered by the commission is being followed.”

It’s possible that Baker won’t serve out his sentence. Harvey Rishikov, the convening authority of the military commissions, “will determine whether to affirm, defer, suspend or disapprove the sentence in the next few days,” the Pentagon’s Sakrisson said. your social media marketing partner


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+53 # PCPrincess 2017-11-02 10:08
Why are some human beings such damned assholes? I'm sorry, but I can't mince my words here. I'm just amazed at how low some people can go. Especially those with a propensity to be authoritative or vindictive who are then given any sort of power or privilege, in this case, a government judge.
+13 # VoxFox 2017-11-02 12:06
Too many men are still dominated by their Reptilian brains that are fearful and selfishly obsessed only with the animal's survival. These men are weak (cowards) or aggressive (sociopaths).
When these 'men' join military organizations then our problems are multiplied.
+41 # John S. Browne 2017-11-02 10:33

Thank the heavens for the still small voices that speak up in defense of human and civil rights. But their voices are a small drop in a huge ocean, especially in the U.S. military and the government, where the chorus of the majority is conformity to literally replacing our freedom(s), liberty(ies) and rights with so-called "security"; in other words, "security" at the expense of true freedom, liberty and privacy. Rights be damned is the overwhelming cry of totalitarian security proponents, drowning out the few who defend U.S. values against the humongous odds against sanity and reigning in the prevailing destruction of liberty and freedom.

How much you wanna bet that this general will be demoted and/or drummed out of the military. We "can't have" U.S. military and government personnel who truly defend the supreme law(s) of the land, the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights from our increasingly domestic enemy government, as they are sworn to do. Oh, no, we "have to" silence all dissenting voices and prevent the upholding of liberty and freedom over totalitarian "security". Can't have liberty and freedom winning out over the expanding Orwellian oppression, "draconianism" and repression. No, we've "got to" bow down to the U.S., the West and the world being turning into an increasingly totalitarian militarized corporate-fasci st police state. Again, liberty and freedom be damned on the altar of the god of the opposite of freedom and liberty, global enslavement.

+38 # Jim Rocket 2017-11-02 10:35
Are these the creaks and groans of a dying empire...?
+1 # ericlipps 2017-11-02 21:03
Quoting Jim Rocket:
Are these the creaks and groans of a dying empire...?

Don't bet on it. And for God's sake don't hope for it, as you seem to. If the "American empire" goes down, what will take its place?
+1 # Rower08 2017-11-05 06:47
+40 # bobhintz 2017-11-02 10:48
No good deed goes unpunished. I'm not a lawyer but this does not pass the smell test. It seems to me that what the judge wants is like playing a football game with a microphone in the opposing team's huddle. I would like to believe that we hold a higher standard but I am afraid we don't.

If there is any justice Rishikov will disprove of the whole thing but I won't hold my breath. In any event I suspect the general can kiss his career goodbye.
+45 # ChrisCurrie 2017-11-02 10:56
What more proof do we need to disband the fraudulent Gitmo trial system?
+38 # chrisconno 2017-11-02 11:13
Who still believes we can't suffer a military coup under the lawless leadership of the pimple-n-chief?
+20 # wrknight 2017-11-02 11:46
Where in the hell do we find assholes like Spath and Sakrisson? This whole gitmo enterprise is a national embarrassment which never should have been permitted in the first place. But to punish BG Baker for attempting to protect the rights of the accused (but not convicted) is an outrage and a disgrace to us all.
+12 # wrknight 2017-11-02 11:48
COL Spath, a typical Air Force desk pilot. Useless as tits on a boar hog.
+8 # Art947 2017-11-02 12:12
When I was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam period, the major refrains that we sang included F T A. (You can probably surmise what that stands for.) We also learned that military justice was an oxymoron. Vance Spath, a piece of garbage if there ever was one, deserves to be executed as a traitor to the oath that he swore -- to the Constitution of the U.S. May he and the others of his ilk get the punishment that they rightly deserve!
+15 # tedrey 2017-11-02 12:31
Further twist. "The law governing military commissions says a defendant is required to have a capital defense attorney. Spath said Wednesday he intended to proceed with pretrial hearings with Nashiri represented at Guantánamo by a junior Navy lawyer with no death-penalty experience."

That junior lawyer has now pointed out that he can not legally do that. Spath has told him to do it anyway, He has refused. More developments sure to follow.
+12 # elkingo 2017-11-02 14:29
A fucking travesty. Gen. Baker is sworn to defend the Constitution and is under arrest for doing so. Everybody above is right on the button. Esp.John S Brown who covers it in detail. Except that is for ChrisCurrie: sorry Chris, we have ALREADY undergone a (soft) coup d'etat when that asshole was placed in office.
Notice I didn't say "elected".
+3 # John S. Browne 2017-11-03 12:42

We underwent a MAJOR coup d'etat when 9-11 was "perpetra(i)t(o r)ed" by factions of the U.S. government, the international shadow government, "al CIAduh(!)", the Israeli, Pakistani and Saudi Arabian governments, and other agencies, parties and people, including the major members of the Bush administration and of the Bush family.

Look how successfully it has completely altered "our" government for the worse. We are now an authoritarian, increasingly totalitarian, draconian, dystopian, oppressive and increasingly repressive corporate-fasci st police state; and 9-11 was used to bring in "Hitlerian", unconstitutiona l, illegal and therefore null and void "laws", and to take down our Constitution and Bill of Rights (and Duties), and the freedoms, liberties and rights delineated in them, increasingly criminalizing the nothing but non-violent exercise of those rights and duties, increasingly coming after innocent Americans for being True Americans and standing up against this despotism, treason and tyranny as it is the duty of all of us to do.

All of that was clearly a well planned, coordinated, executed and quite successful coup; and, as a result of it, we are no longer living in a free country anymore whatsoever, and one that is only getting worse and worse as it descends ever more deeply into totalitarianism and repression; and not just here at home, but abroad as well through the international government that actually rules the U.S., the West and the world.

+13 # madams12 2017-11-02 15:00
END of EMPIRE....bravo to JOHN BAKER for honoring his oath !!!!

"all this could have been avoided had the government simply not spied on the Nashiri team, “or allowed the defense counsel to discuss this issue with their client.”
+9 # wrknight 2017-11-03 06:46
Quoting madams12:
END of EMPIRE....bravo to JOHN BAKER for honoring his oath !!!!

"all this could have been avoided had the government simply not spied on the Nashiri team, “or allowed the defense counsel to discuss this issue with their client.”

And all of it could have been avoided if the U.S. had a foreign policy that treated Palestinians equally with Israelis from the very beginning at the end of WWII. Instead, we made enemies of the vast majority of Muslims living in Middle East including the Saudis who pretend to be our friends so long as we buy their oil and give them all the weapons they want.
+6 # vilstef 2017-11-02 18:23
This twisted bit of non-democracy reminds me of a book title. The title says so much: Military Justice is to Justice as Military Music is to Music. Author, Robert Sherrill
+9 # angelfish 2017-11-02 21:54
So much for "Equal treatment under the Law", and "Liberty and Justice for ALL". I guess that only happens when you have an Honorable, Sane Judge with no Private axes to grind. This is Shameful and makes our ENTIRE Military Justice System look Fraudulent! I am sorry for this Brigadier General and the Bull-Puckey he has been saddled with by a Vindictive, Egomaniac of a Judge with NO Moral Fiber and NO real belief in our Legal System! HE is made puny by his limp wristed decision and Brigadier General John Baker's Career is probably over thanks to a Moron.
+14 # Larry 2017-11-03 08:17
“When small men begin to cast big shadows, it means that the sun is about to set.” To our seemingly endless list of small men; Trump, Pence, Ryan, McConnell, etc. etc., we can now add Vance Spath.

The gravest threat to the United States is not conquest from without; it is rot from within.
+6 # Adoregon 2017-11-04 15:38
Welcome to the USF

(United States of Fraud)

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