September 16, 2006
Trials And Errors In The War On Terrorism
"Bush's Detainee Plan Is Criticized" [news story, Sept. 8] showed a lack of familiarity with military jurisprudence and was a superficial reading of the proposed legislation.
The authors asserted that "prosecutors would be permitted to use classified information to secure convictions; defendants and their lawyers would not be told about such information." The administration proposal for the admission of classified evidence does not deny defense counsel the opportunity to see and examine any evidence -- classified or unclassified -- to be introduced against an accused at trial.
Further, the accused may see classified information if the judge determines that it will not harm critical national security interests.
Finally, while it is true that "prosecutors could also rely on hearsay," such evidence must be deemed both relevant and reliable by the military judge -- the same standard the military judge will apply to hearsay evidence the defense offers. In addition, the administration proposal requires the military judge to exclude any evidence offered by the prosecution if its probative value -- its value in proving the case -- is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice against the accused.
BRYAN WHITMAN, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, U.S. Defense Department, Washington