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From the Ash Heap: Camp LeJeune

I came across these sketches I did back in 2005 at Camp LeJeune of an Article 32 hearing – the military equivalent of a preliminary hearing – for Second Lieutenant Ilario Pantano. Lt. Pantano was charged with the premeditated murder of two Iraqis.

When the World Trade Towers collapsed on 9/11 Pantano was living in New York, where he grew up, and had recently started his own business after a stint at Goldman Sachs. Shortly after the attacks he reenlisted in the Marines and was soon leading a platoon in the Sunni Triangle.


On April 15 , 2004 while investigating a report of insurgents at a compound Lt. Pantano stopped a car in which two Iraqis were attempting to leave. After knocking out the glass, flattening the tires and searching the vehicle Pantano released the Iraqis from their cuffs and ordered them to do an additional search of the vehicle. Sergeant Daniel Coburn and Corpsman George “Doc” Gobles were standing guard at either end, facing away from the vehicle, when they heard a short verbal exchange between the lieutenant and the Iraqis and then gunfire. Lt. Patanao emptied one M-16 magazine, then another, into the men. He then wrote on a piece of cardboard “NO BETTER FRIEND, NO WORST ENEMY” and placed it on the car where the bodies laid.


A couple months later Sergeant Coburn, who had recently been demoted by Lt. Pantano to radio operator, registered a complaint which led to the Lieutenant being charged with two counts of premeditated murder.

When Sgt. Coburn took the stand to testify it came out that he had spoken to the media in direct violation of orders not to do so. The hearing took a dramatic turn as Pantano’s lawyer confronted Coburn with his remarks that contradicted what he had told naval investigators. The hearing was stopped and the presiding officer, Lt. Col. Mark E. Winn, informed the sergeant of his Miranda rights. In his report Colonel Winn found “a great deal of discrepancies and conflicting testimony given by Sgt. Coburn”. The charges against Lt. Pantano were eventually dropped.

You can read more about Ilario Pantano in this New York Magazine article.

The 2004 Guantanamo Military Commissions

Last week NPR’s Morning Edition aired a story about Guantanamo sketch artist Janet Hamlin saying, “When the secretive military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay began, only one courtroom sketch artist was allowed in. Her name is Janet Hamlin.” That’s not exactly correct.

Janet is a great artist and has done a great job visually documenting the tribunals created  under the Military Commissions Act of 2006. She has recently come out with a book of her drawings, “Sketching Guantanamo, Court Sketches of the Military Tribunals, 2006-2013”, that is a must buy. But I just want to set the record straight that the first Military Commissions were in 2004. The Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld found that they violated both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and The Geneva Conventions, and that the president did not have the authority to create them without authorization of Congress.

So, to be correct, when the secretive military tribunals at Guantanamo began, in 2004, only one artist was allowed in, me. Below are some of my sketches, never before posted -it was before I had a blog, done during four days in August 2004 at Guantanamo.

Above, NGO observers; below, members of the arabic language press.

I wasn’t allowed to portray the likenesses of the detainees or Guantanamo personnel.

Above Australian detainee David Hicks, seated, his military lawyers’ hand on his back. Hicks’ parents are in the left foreground.

“Birther” Loses Court-Martial Defense


Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin, a highly decorated 18-year Army veteran, refused to deploy to Afghanistan on the grounds that the order was illegal because, he believes, President Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the U.S. and therefore has no authority as Commander in Chief.

Lakin invited his court-martial hoping to use it to call into question the President’s birth records, but a military judge today denied him that defense.

WorldNetDaily’s Thom Redmond has the story here.

Judge Frees Gitmo Detainee

Judge Ellen Huvelle yesterday ordered the government to release Mohammed Jawad, a young Guantanamo detainee whose confession under torture was thrown out by a military judge.  Though unlikely, criminal charges could still be brought against Jawad, an action the judge discouraged. “I hope the government will succeed in getting him back to Afghanistan,” Huvelle said.

In the sketch Jawad’s attorney, Maj. David Frakt, is pictured at the podium. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Ian Gershengorn is standing on the left.

NYT story here.

Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals


U.S. v Neal was argued at the Washington Navy Yard last Friday. The issue before the court arises from a sexual assault case. Major Elizabeth Harvey is pictured arguing for the appellant.

You can listen to the argument here.

Judge Orders Release of 5 Gitmo Prisoners “Forthwith”

Judge Richard Leon, a conservative Bush appointee, in the first ruling since the Supreme Court ordered habeas review of the government’s evidence in the Guantanamo detentions, ordered the release of five of the six detainees in Boumediene v. Bush. The judge said the Justice Department had relied solely on a classified documents from an unnamed source, and that its arguments were not persuasive.

In an unusual move, Judge Leon asked the government not to appeal his decision, saying “seven years of waiting for our legal system to give them an answer to their legal question is enough.”

Washington Post story here.