February 6, 2009
A senior judge who has not followed President Barack Obama’s order to halt military trials at Guantanamo Bay is among Bush administration appointees still overseeing how the Pentagon deals with terror captives.
Two other senior Pentagon officials have been shunted into civil service jobs. As a result, they cannot be summarily fired because of the change in presidential administrations.
Susan J. Crawford is the top legal authority running military trials at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba. She is a Bush political appointee who has remained idle since a lower-ranking military judge ordered a week ago that at least one trial of a terror detainee could go forward.
Obama’s executive order, dated Jan. 22, suspended all Guantanamo tribunals pending a review of the cases of the estimated 245 terror suspects detained there. Without action from Crawford, however, the arraignment of suspected USS Cole bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri is scheduled for Monday.
Dozens of Defense Department officials, along with relatives of the Cole victims, were on standby Thursday for a weekend flight to Guantanamo for the court hearing.
Asked Thursday if Crawford would halt the al-Nashiri case, Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. J.D. Gordon said, “It remains to be determined.”
The Pentagon has reviewed the cases of all three appointees, whom President George W. Bush’s White House vetted and approved for political posts in 2007. A spokesman said defense officials concluded that none “burrowed” into the system — or improperly transferred from political to career jobs.
But their ongoing influence over one of Obama’s first and most sensitive national security decisions raises questions by critics — within and outside the Pentagon — about whether those who championed the controversial Guantanamo military court system can now be depended upon to help shut it down.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday. He was not initially aware of the Bush administration’s three Guantanamo policy holdovers when asked about them earlier this week.