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Obama to continue military tribunals

He had promised during the presidential campaign to end the controversial trials of terrorism suspects. But the White House plans to make major changes to the system.

May 15, 2009|Julian E. Barnes

The Bush-era system was reviled not only by human rights advocates but by some military officials.

Three retired senior officers who served in key positions in the military justice system wrote to Obama on Thursday in an attempt to derail a revival of the commissions. They warned against an "erosion of international confidence" in U.S. justice.

"Our federal criminal justice system has capably handled hundreds of complex terrorism cases . . . rendering decisions that are widely respected as legitimate," wrote retired Vice Adm. Lee F. Gunn, the former Navy inspector general; retired Rear Adm. John D. Hutson, the former Navy judge advocate general; and retired Brig. Gen. James P. Cullen, the former chief judge of the U.S. Army Court of Criminal Appeals.

Lawyers for detainees also criticized Obama's decision to give military commissions another chance.

"The Obama administration came into office promising change and now looks to be repeating the mistakes of the Bush administration," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. William C. Kuebler, who represents a young Canadian prisoner at Guantanamo. "I hope they won't expose a child soldier like Omar Khadr to such a system."

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julian.barnes@latimes.com

Times staff writer Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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