It’s Time for Brig. Gen. Hartmann to Go

It’s Time for Brig. Gen. Hartmann to Go

Last October, Col. Morris Davis resigned as chief prosecutor of the military commissions, claiming that Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann had interfered with the prosecutor’s office, pressured him to use classified evidence — requiring sessions to be conducted behind closed doors — and encouraged the use of evidence obtained through waterboarding.  Col. Davis filed a formal complaint at the time, but the Pentagon sided with Hartmann instead.

I think the Pentagon may want to rethink which side it’s on:

A US general Wednesday accused another general of bullying and having a “spray and pray” approach to detainees at the US military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a US daily reported.

Spray and pray. Charge everybody. Let’s go. Speed, speed, speed,” was the the method of Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann, deputy prison camp commander Brigadier General Gregory Zanetti told the hearing, the Miami Herald said.

In a rare criticism of a fellow officer, Zanetti said Hartmann’s demeanor “as an attorney from a thousand miles away,” was “abusive, bullying and unprofessional . . . pretty much across the board.”

Zanetti was appearing as a defense witness at a pretrial hearing for Afghan national Mohammed Jawad, who was 16 or 17 at the time of his arrest, and is accused of wounding two US soldiers in a grenade attack in Kabul.

The defense is calling for the case to be dropped, arguing that Hartmann, who is the Pentagon-based legal advisor to the military official overseeing the tribunals, exerted “unlawful influence” on the Guantanamo hearings.

The tide is clearly turning against Hartmann’s efforts to ensure that the military commissions remain a parody of justice. The presiding judge recently barred Hartmann from participating in Jawad’s trial, citing his lack of objectivity, and he was barred from participating in Hamdan’s trial for similar reasons.

I think it’s time to find another post for the good General.

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International Criminal Law, International Human Rights Law, National Security Law
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Gregory S. McNeal

Kevin, Thanks for posting this story.  I agree with you that Hartmann should go, however I fear that the problems won’t be solved by removing Hartmann (a point which I’m pretty sure you’ll agree with).  Hartmann’s actions are representative of a significant structural flaw in the military commissions which creates a system allowing for direct political influence over the trial process.   I discuss some of the structural problems in my essay Beyond Guantanamo (103 Nw. U. L. Rev. ____ (2008),  and online now at the Colloquy).  I’ll summarize the points here to save you and others from the snorefest of reading the entire essay.   First, MCA § 948h allows for a political appointee to serve in the powerful role of Convening Authority a unique military position with substantial discretionary powers, powers traditionally reserved to commanders as a consequence of their command responsibilities.  At the same time MCA § 949b provides trial counsel with enhanced protection from unlawful influence.  Unsurprisingly, allowing a political appointee to occupy a powerful quasi-judicial position while at the same time mandating protection from undue influence places these two statutory provisions in conflict.  We saw how this played out in the stories you linked to about Col. Davis’ resignation.  However, the… Read more »


[…] at Opinio Juris, Kevin Jon Heller posted a story about the legal adviser to the convening authority in the Guantanamo military commissions, and why […]

Morris Davis
Morris Davis

An important part of Brigadier General Zanetti’s testimony was largely overlooked.  Here is the background.  Brigadier General Hartmann (and I) testified in the Jawad case on June 19th.  Jawad’s counsel, Major Dave Frakt, asked Brigadier General Hartmann if he held regular video teleconferences with the Joint Task Force-Guantanamo leadership to discuss plans to prosecute military commission cases.  Brigadier General Hartmann denied doing so.  Major Frakt repeated the question and Brigadier General Hartmann denied it again. Here is what Jane Sutton of Reuters reported from Gitmo on August 13th:  “Zanetti disputed Hartmann’s sworn testimony in an earlier hearing that he had not participated in regular video conferences with officers at Guantanamo to discuss pending cases earlier this year.  He quoted Hartmann as saying he was ‘taking over this thing’ and that he advised Guantanamo officers during videoconferences ‘who he was going to charge and when.’” The Rules of Professional Conduct establish a duty of candor towards the tribunal and criminal law has something to say about not telling the truth under oath in court.  Regardless of which General is right, the suggestion that the supposed neutral and detached legal advisor was perhaps less than honest in an effort to conceal the… Read more »

Diplomatic Gunboat
Diplomatic Gunboat

Articles 107 and/or 131 of the UCMJ are plainly implicated (in addition to the Rules for Professional Conduct).  There would seem to be multiple witnesses who should be able to corroborate or deny the VTCs.  So which IG gets this one?


Response…  Has Col Davis received his end of tour award?