Herridge blames "limits" of civilian justice system, but case reportedly "tainted by torture"

››› ››› TOM ALLISON

During a Special Report segment, Catherine Herridge stated that a federal court ruling that ordered the release of Guantánamo Bay detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi "exposed the limits" of the civilian criminal justice system. However, Slahi was not being prosecuted in the civilian justice system, and a military prosecutor reportedly refused to prosecute Slahi three years ago after he determined that the evidence against Slahi was obtained through torture.

Herridge suggests civilian justice system's "limits" led to release, but military prosecutor reportedly said case "tainted by torture"

Herridge: Slahi case "once again exposed the limits" of civilian criminal justice system. Discussing reports that the White House might reverse the decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in civilian criminal court, Herridge stated: "The Justice Department says legal precedent and other practices help protect classified information in federal courts, but a case this week once again exposed the limits of the criminal system. A Washington district court judge ruled that the alleged Al Qaeda recruiter [Slahi] of lead hijacker Mohamed Atta should be released from Guantánamo because there is insufficient evidence to hold him."

A military commission prosecutor reportedly refused to prosecute Slahi "because he thought evidence was tainted by torture." A March 31, 2007, Wall Street Journal article reported that Lt. Col. V. Stuart Couch, who was assigned to prosecute Slahi during the Bush administration, "refused to proceed with the Slahi prosecution." The Journal further reported:

The reason: He concluded that Mr. Slahi's incriminating statements -- the core of the government's case -- had been taken through torture, rendering them inadmissible under U.S. and international law. The Slahi case marks a rare instance of a military prosecutor refusing to bring charges because he thought evidence was tainted by torture.

The Journal reported that during the course of his investigation into the case, Couch uncovered "evidence the prisoner had been beaten and exposed to psychological torture, including death threats and intimations that his mother would be raped in custody unless he cooperated." The article further stated: "Col. Couch says he's still frustrated that the actions of the U.S. government helped ruin the case against Mr. Slahi. 'I'm hoping there's some non-tainted evidence out there that can put the guy in the hole,' he says."

Couch said court order is "consequence" of torture policy. The Wall Street Journal also reported on March 22 that Couch said the judicial order releasing Slahi "is one of the consequences that the decision-makers should have foreseen when they decided to adopt a policy of cruelty, and the interrogation techniques that flowed from it." From the March 22 Wall Street Journal article:

Plans to try him by military commission were derailed after prosecutors learned that Mr. Slahi had been subjected to a "special interrogation plan" involving weeks of physical and mental torment, including a death threat and a threat to bring Mr. Slahi's mother to Guantánamo Bay where she could be gang-raped, officials said.

Although the treatment apparently induced Mr. Slahi's compliance, the military prosecutor, Marine Lt. Col. V. Stuart Couch, determined that it constituted torture and evidence it produced could not lawfully be used against Mr. Slahi.

Col. Couch, in a March 31, 2007, Page One story in The Wall Street Journal, cited legal, professional and moral reasons for declining to prosecute.

Mr. Slahi, who was then viewed as a cooperator by interrogators, was granted various privileges at Guantánamo Bay, including his own quarters and garden to tend.

Col. Couch, now in private practice in North Carolina, said Monday's order "is one of the consequences that the decision-makers should have foreseen when they decided to adopt a policy of cruelty, and the interrogation techniques that flowed from it."

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