Update: Amazingly good video here. This guy is a true hero.
Today is a sad day, but it is also a day we will remember and we will be proud for one man named Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Diaz, USN. History will recognize that today Lt. Cmdr. Diaz--a sailor, a lawyer and a patriot--was brave enough to say no to war crimes committed by his own country and was persecuted for this bravery. Today Cmdr. Matthew Diaz was convicted by a court martial of disclosing the names of detainees at Guantanamo Bay to a human rights organization. He faces up to 14 years in prison.
Military justice is to justice what military music is to music.
Georges Clemenceau (1841 - 1929)
The case against Lt. Cmdr. Diaz, a Navy JAG with 17 years of service, is simple as outlined in this Harper's article by Scott Horton. Background to this is also posted in this diary by 4Freedom. He is accused of anonymously mailing a 39 page list of the 550 current detainees to a New York civil liberties organization inside of a Valentine's Day card. Lt. Cmdr. Diaz now states that his only shameful action is that he did this surreptiously. He is accused of a crime since this information was contained on a "Secret" level computer. His excuse is that the document itself was not secret. He is guilty as hell.
As described in the Harper's article
The government had a legal obligation to disclose the names to the Red Cross—an obligation imposed by the Geneva Conventions, and followed by fifty years of military tradition.....Holding persons in secret detention constitutes a jus cogens crime under international law, but it is also classified as a war crime under the Geneva Conventions and under United States criminal law—the War Crimes Act of 1996.
It is hard to believe that the list of names of Guatanamo detainees is secret by any classification index since a US court has already ruled that this list had to be publicly disclosed:
The Associated Press responded to the Defense Department’s decision to withhold information about the identity of the Guantánamo detainees by filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) proceeding to compel their disclosure. The Pentagon mounted a number of increasingly absurd arguments in defending this suit, principally saying that it was entitled to withhold the names of the detainees because it would “invade their privacy” for this information to be disclosed. The federal court hearing the matter was not amused by these evasions, and ordered the disclosure of the data. Accordingly, under federal court order, the data was turned over to the AP and published.
So the names of the detainees were required to be disclosed. Their non-disclosure was a criminal act.
No sensible person should think that Lt. Cmdr. Diaz did not willfully and knowingly violate the security status of this document by mailing it to a human rights group. Knowing the names of those who are detained is the first step in habeas corpus--the "natural" (my sop to any Federalist Society lurker who is accidentally reading this) and inalienable right that every human being possesses to be fairly judged according to a system of laws, a right that even Andrew Sullivan acknowledges.
Just as it is a crime to follow a criminal order, Lt. Cmdr. Diaz, as a commissioned officer in the United State Navy, had no choice but to disseminate the list of detainees. He will be remembered together with others like Kurt Gerstein, the SS officer who tried to sabotage Nazi efforts to exterminate concentration camp prisoners and Hans Oster and Wilhelm Canaris, the heads of Abwehr who tried to alert the Allies to Nazi crimes. By all standards of morality and international law, Lt. Cmdr. Diaz is guilty of disobeying an illegal and immoral order and is innocent of all charges.
No one doubts that truly evil criminals are being held among the detainees at Guantanamo. These are persons that all of us hope will be tried and if evidence is presented showing their guilt after a fair trial with adequate legal representation, they should be sentenced under the FULL POWER OF THE LAW. But the Bush Adminstration has perverted this process and thus gives aid and comfort to our enemies.
Ironically, Lt. Cmdr. Diaz is accused of conduct unbecoming of an officer. Lt. Cmdr. Diaz has not only conducted himself with honor, he is a model for all other officers in the uniformed services of the United States of America. As a dedicated atheist, I say, "God bless you, Lt. Cmdr. Diaz."