On Tuesday, Scott Horton at the blog No Comment told again the story of the Navy's Lieutenant Commander Matthew Diaz, who served his country as a staff judge advocate at Guantánamo. Diaz was confronted with a moral dilemma: obey and uphold the chain of command or obey international humanitarian law. He chose the latter and has paid a heavy price for it. Here's how Horton describes it:
Matthew Diaz served his country as a staff judge advocate at Guantánamo. He watched a shameless assault on America’s Constitution and commitment to the rule of law carried out by the Bush Administration. He watched the introduction of a system of cruel torture and abuse. He watched the shaming of the nation’s uniformed services, with their proud traditions that formed the very basis of the standards of humanitarian law, now torn asunder through the lawless acts of the Executive. Matthew Diaz found himself in a precarious position—as a uniformed officer, he was bound to follow his command. As a licensed and qualified attorney, he was bound to uphold the law. And these things were indubitably at odds.
Diaz resolved to do something about it. He knew the Supreme Court twice ruled the Guantánamo regime, which he was under orders to uphold, was unlawful. In the Hamdan decision, the Court went a step further. In powerful and extraordinary words, Justice Kennedy reminded the Administration that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions was binding upon them, and that a violation could constitute a criminal act. One senior member of the Bush legal team, informed of the decision over lunch, was reported to have turned “white as a sheet” and to have immediately excused himself. For the following months, Bush Administration lawyers entered into a frenzied discussion of how to protect themselves from criminal prosecution.
Diaz talked about it. Here's what happened:
Diaz was charged, tried and convicted for disclosing “secrets.” For the Bush Administration, any information which would be politically embarrassing or harmful to it is routinely classified “secret.” In this fashion the Administration believes it can use criminal sanctions against those who disclose information it believes will be politically damaging. The list of detainees at Guantánamo, which by law was required to be disclosed, was classified as “secret.”
Diaz spent six months in prison and left it bankrupt and without a job. In addition to his sentence, the Pentagon is working aggressively to have Diaz stripped of his law license so he will not be able to practice his profession. The Bush Administration has sought to criminalize, humiliate and destroy Diaz. Its motivation could not be clearer: Diaz struck a blow for the rule of law. And nothing could be more threatening to the Bush Administration than this.
Diaz was recognized for his courage to speak out:
On Thursday in the National Press Club in Washington, a crowd gathered to witness the presentation of the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling to Lieutenant Commander Matthew Diaz.
You can read Horton's entire post at the link above, boys and girls. Spot urges you to do so. You can read Horton's contrast of Matthew Diaz with the author of the "torture memo," John Yoo. Perhaps for Spot's purpose, however, the most important paragraph is the highlighted one. This is the view of everyone, really, that Spot knows, save one.