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Ex-Military Prosecutor: Fair Prosecution Impossible In Terror Cases

You'd think if these detainees were so very dangerous, someone might have thought to put the evidence in some kind of order: A former military prosec

You'd think if these detainees were so very dangerous, someone might have thought to put the evidence in some kind of order:

A former military prosecutor said in a declaration filed in federal court yesterday that the system of handling evidence against detainees at Guantanamo Bay is so chaotic that it is impossible to prepare a fair and successful prosecution.

Darrel Vandeveld, a former lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, filed the declaration in support of a petition seeking the release of Mohammed Jawad, an Afghan who has been held at the military prison in Cuba for six years. Jawad was a juvenile when he was detained in Kabul in 2002 after a grenade attack that severely wounded two U.S. Special Forces soldiers and their interpreter.

Vandeveld, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was the lead prosecutor against Jawad until he asked to be relieved of his duties last year, citing a crisis of conscience. He said the case has been riddled with problems, including alleged physical and psychological abuse of Jawad by Afghan police and the U.S. military, as well as reliance on evidence that was later found to be missing, false or unreliable.

Vandeveld said in a phone interview that the "complete lack of organization" has affected nearly all cases at Guantanamo Bay. The evidence is often so disorganized, he said, "it was like a stash of documents found in a village in a raid and just put on a plane to the U.S. Not even rudimentary organization by date or name."

Vandeveld was assigned to the military prosecutor's office at Guantanamo Bay in May 2007, shortly before Jawad was charged. Vandeveld, who as a civilian serves as a senior deputy attorney general in Pennsylvania, said he was shocked by the "state of disarray" as he began to gather material for Jawad's case file.

He said the evidence was scattered throughout databases, in desk drawers, in vaguely labeled containers or "simply piled on the tops of desks" of departed prosecutors.

"I further discovered that most physical evidence that had been collected had either disappeared" or had been stored in unknown locations, he said.

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