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Defense Department Picks Officials for Military Tribunal Posts

Appointing authority, legal advisor, review panel members named

The U.S. Defense Department December 30 named retired generals and current and retired attorneys general to fill positions in its new Office of Military Commissions.

The office will oversee the legal proceedings involving detainees taken into custody during military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and held in U.S. military custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere.

John Altenburg, a retired Army major general, has been named the appointing authority for military commissions by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, according to a Defense Department statement. In that position, Altenburg will be responsible for approving charges against individuals President Bush has determined to be subject to the military order of November 13, 2001, as well as appointing commission members, and approving plea agreements. Altenburg will serve as a civilian.

Retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Thomas Hemingway was named as the Military Commission legal advisor, in which capacity he will provide legal advice to Altenburg. Hemingway is being recalled to active duty to serve in the position.

Rumsfeld also named four persons to be Military Commission Review Panel members, according to a separate Defense Department statement. The four are: former U.S. Attorney General Griffin Bell; current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island Frank Williams; William Coleman, a former U.S. secretary of transportation; and Pennsylvania Judge Edward Biester, a former Pennsylvania attorney general and a former member of Congress.

The review panel will study military commission proceedings, and if it finds material errors of law, it will return the case for further proceedings, "including dismissal of charges," according to the statement. The panel may also recommend disposition of cases to the secretary of defense, including on sentencing. Panel members will be commissioned as Army major generals during approximate two-year terms. More panel members may be appointed in the future.

Also, Defense Department General Counsel William Haynes has issued Military Commission Instruction No. 9, which prescribes procedures and sets responsibilities for review of commission proceedings.

Following are the texts of the Defense Department statements:

Washington, D.C.
December 30, 2003


Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld has decided to delegate the position of appointing authority for military commissions to John D. Altenburg, Jr.

The appointing authority is responsible for overseeing many aspects of the military commission process, including approving charges against individuals the president has determined are subject to the Military Order of Nov. 13, 2001. Among other things, the appointing authority is also responsible for appointing military commission members, approving plea agreements and supervising the Office of the Appointing Authority. Altenburg will serve in this capacity as a civilian.

Altenburg retired from the Army as a major general in 2002. His last military assignment was assistant judge advocate general for the Department of the Army. His biography is available at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Dec2003/d20031230altenburg.pdf [http://www.dod.mil/news/Dec2003/d20031230altenburg.pdf].

End text.

Begin text:

Washington, D.C.
December 30, 2003


The Department of Defense announced today that Air Force Brigadier General Thomas L. Hemingway has been named the legal advisor to the appointing authority in the Office of Military Commissions. Hemingway is responsible for providing legal advice to the appointing authority on approval of charges and referring cases to trial, questions that arise during trial and other legal matters relating to military commissions. His duties also include supervising the appointing authority legal staff.

Hemingway retired from active duty after 31 years of service in 1996 and has been recalled to active duty to fill his current position. The general has served as a staff judge advocate at the group, wing, numbered air force, major command and unified command level. He also served as a senior judge on the Air Force Court of Military Review and as director of the U.S. Air Force Judiciary.

His biography is available at http://www.af.mil/bios/bio_7760.shtml [http://www.af.mil/bios/bio_7760.shtml].

End text.

Begin text:

Washington, D.C.
December 30, 2003


Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld has decided to designate four individuals to serve as review panel members for military commissions. Additionally, the General Counsel of the Department of Defense William J. Haynes II issued Military Commission Instruction (MCI) No. 9, Review of Military Commission Proceedings. The members to be designated are:

-- Griffin B. Bell, former U.S. attorney general and former U.S. circuit judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

-- Edward G. Biester, judge, Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Seventh Judicial District; former Pennsylvania attorney general; and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives

-- William T. Coleman, Jr., former secretary of transportation

-- Frank Williams, chief justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

The four will be commissioned as Army major generals for an approximate two-year term while serving intermittently in this role.

Review panel members are responsible for reviewing military commission proceedings. The review panel may consider written and oral arguments by the defense, the prosecution, and the government of the nation of which the accused is a citizen. If the review panel finds that a material error of law occurred, the review panel will return the case for further proceedings, including dismissal of charges. The review panel may also make recommendations to the secretary of defense with respect to the disposition of the case before it, including sentencing matters. Except as necessary to safeguard protected information, written opinions of the review panel will be published.

Additional review panel members may be designated in the future. Review panel members will select from among themselves the three members who will serve on a specific case. The three members of each review panel may select, at their discretion, one member to act as the president of that review panel.

MCI No. 9 prescribes procedures and establishes responsibilities for the review of military commission proceedings to provide for an independent review similar to the role of an appellate court in the civilian court system. Among other things, MCI No. 9 requires review panel members to perform their duties impartially, creates a single term of service for review panel members and protects review panel members against undue influence.

MCI No. 9 and biographical information on the review panel designates can be found at http://www.defenselink.mil/news/commissions.html [http://www.dod.mil/news/commissions.html].

Created: 30 Dec 2003 Updated: 30 Dec 2003

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