David Rose — The Daily Mail August 3, 2013
William Lietzau, America’s Deputy Assistant Defence Secretary for Detainee Affairs, told The Mail on Sunday in an exclusive interview that Guantanamo’s detainees should have been legally designated as prisoners of war and held in Afghanistan, or if charged with crimes, taken to prisons in America.
Mr Lietzau – who, after three and a half years in his job, last week announced he will be stepping down to take a private sector job in September – added that the best way for President Obama to close Guantanamo would be to announce that the ‘war’ with Al Qaeda is over.
Under international law, this would end any justification for continuing to hold prisoners who had not been charged with crimes.
Lietzau’s words will be seen as explosive, because alone of senior officials who serve the Obama administration in this field now, he played a key role in creating Guantanamo under George W. Bush.
As a senior military lawyer from early 2002 to mid-2003, he designed the Guantanamo ‘military commissions’ – special tribunals set up to try terrorist suspects.
These have proved a dismal failure. Their rules have repeatedly changed, and more than a decade after five men accused of plotting 9/11 were captured, their case is bogged down in pre-trial hearings which have no end in sight.
Mr Lietzau said that if he were advising the Bush administration now, ‘I would argue that detainees should be kept in Afghanistan, or, if moving them is necessary, then into the United States. If I could change one thing in Gitmo’s past, I would have called them prisoners of war from the beginning.’
That, he said, would have meant their legal status would have been clear from the outset. They would also have been covered by Common Article Three of the Geneva Convention, which was not applied to Guantanamo detainees until a Supreme Court decision in 2006.