A Top Military Adviser Talks About War Crimes

Thomas Hartmann discusses military commissions on the eve of a 9/11 arraignment.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, a legal adviser for the Defense Department's Office of Military Commissions, speaks during a press conference at the Pentagon.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann

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The defense has a secured location at Guantánamo Bay in exactly the same circumstances that prosecution has—with computers, secured access to classified information, etc. In Washington, they have a secure facility as well. I'll be frank with you—it's rather small, and we've worked to make that grow larger. And I'm very dissatisfied with the pace that we've been able to bring that to the defense. We're putting some intensity on it and expect it to move much more quickly.

In addition, each of the prosecution and the defense will grow by 20 uniformed lawyers and 20 uniformed paralegals over the next three months. And that is in part because the deputy secretary of defense has determined that the No. 1 legal services mission in the Department of Defense is the military commissions.

And what do you think about the criticism about the delays in providing security clearances to defense lawyers?


There are 10 uniformed lawyers in the 9/11 cases. Eight of them have the necessary security clearance and two are being worked through. Of the seven civilian defense counsel, two have it. Two haven't done their paperwork. And you can't get a security clearance without paper. There's no other way around it. And three are in the process. I think if you talk to anyone who has a particular level of security clearance, they'll say it takes a year to 18 months. We're trying to do it in one to two months. So that's an effort to streamline the process as much as humanly possible. Some have said that having the 9/11 trials—even if the men are convicted—will turn them into martyrs for the cause. Do you think this could hurt the broader U.S. effort in the war on terror?


The mission of the military commissions is to provide fair, just, and transparent trials. And we will do that. And I'll tell you these protections we are making available [to the accused] are unprecedented in the history of warfare. They exceed what was available at Nuremberg. They exceed the international criminal tribunals at Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Yugoslavia. They are in many, many ways virtually identical and at least parallel to the rights we provide to our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, which is a tremendous reflection on the American attitude toward justice and the American justice system.