Until Air Force Colonel Morris Davis resigned in protest last fall, he was the gung-ho chief military prosecutor in charge of all cases at Guantánamo Bay. But before the end of April, Davis will be on the witness stand, testifying in defense of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's onetime driver. Davis will swear, according to court papers, that top Pentagon officials interfered in planned detainee trials, subverting the judicial process for political reasons.
If the judge permits his testimony, Davis will state that Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England asked him last year to charge some "high-value detainees" before the November elections. He will also say that the Defense Department's former general counsel, William Haynes, pushed for convictions, asking, "If we've been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off?" And he will accuse Air Force Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann, senior legal adviser to the tribunal, of demanding "sexy" cases with "blood on them" to drum up public support for convictions. "There is no question they wanted me to stage show trials that have nothing to do with the centuries-old tradition of military justice in America," Davis tells TIME.
All three of these Pentagon officials dispute Davis' version of events. Yet his statements under oath may affect future prosecutions, notably those of six high-value detainees, including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, whose trials are slated to begin later this year. Their lawyers are likely to use Davis' testimony to show that the Pentagon crossed legal boundaries, bolstering claims that key evidence against their clients was obtained through torture. Ensuing legal wrangling could push proceedings well into next year, after President Bush has left office. And all three candidates vying to replace him have already called for shutting Guantánamo down.