Court Of Impeachment And War Crimes: The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling: Matthew Diaz
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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling: Matthew Diaz





The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling:

Matthew Diaz


Transcripts of the speeches of the presenter of the prize, Joe Margulies, and the recipient, Matthew Diaz



The 5th Annual Ridenhour Prizes, sponsored by The Nation Institute and the Fertel Foundation, were awarded at a luncheon ceremony on April 3, 2008 at the Press Club in Washington, D.C. The 2008 Ridenhour Prizes were given to veteran journalist Bill Moyers (Courage Prize), author James D. Scurlock (Book Prize) and former Navy JAG officer Matthew Diaz (Prize for Truth-Telling). Named for the Vietnam era whistleblower Ron Ridenhour who exposed the truth of the My Lai massacre, the Ridenhour Prizes recognize those who have spoken out on behalf of the public interest, promoted social justice or illuminated a more just vision of society. For more complete information about The Ridenhour Prizes, as well as past and current winners, please visit www.ridenhour.org.


The following are the transcripts of the speeches made by the presenter of this year's Prize for Truth-Telling, law professor and attorney for Guantánamo detainees Joe Margulies, and prize recipient Matthew Diaz, the former officer of the Navy's Judge Advocate General's Corps who was convicted in 2007 for disclosing the names and serial numbers of the prisoners held in Guantánamo.


JOE MARGULIES: Molly Ivins left us last year. She reminded us to celebrate what she called the joy of a good fight, a really good fight. And she always cautioned us to leaven the seriousness of our personal convictions and the struggle that we engage in with a certain measure of whimsy. And she took pleasure and invited us all to keep that pleasure in our hearts of just the fun that we would enjoy by kicking ass and taking names.


And I lived in Texas for many years. And I say this with some trepidation - but on this score, Molly was mistaken, because no one can think it is fun when the federal government brings its weight down upon you. And no one can think it is fun when you sit in a courtroom as an accused, and a United States prosecutor points an accusatory finger at your chest and calls you a criminal and tells you that you have betrayed your oath and you have betrayed your country, and you have endangered the safety of the men and women that you swore to share your burdens with. And no one can think it is fun when you have to sit with your heart pounding in your chest as the jury files back into the room with a piece of paper folded in its hands, and that piece of paper holds your fate. And no one can think it is fun when that jury, your peers, pronounces you guilty. And no one can think it is fun when you have to face that same jury that will sentence you for what may be many years; many years that you will be away from your family, your life in tatters, your career ruined.


This is what Matthew Diaz had the courage to bring down upon himself. It is a courage that I do not share. I could never have done what he did. And for what?


Matthew Diaz disclosed a set of names. In June of 2004, the United States Supreme Court held in Rasul v. Bush that there are no "disappeareds" in this country, and that the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay have the right to challenge their detention in federal court. But you cannot challenge your detention if you are not known to the world.


And Matthew Diaz, at the end of his tour, disclosed the list of names of people at Guantánamo Bay. Most of them had been in detention already for more than two years. And you should know that that list was not particularly secret. The Red Cross knew everyone on that list. Foreign governments knew everyone on that list. The Washington Post had published the names of almost everyone on that list.


But he put that list in the mail and sent it to the group of lawyers who were engaged in the task of trying to pair prisoners with lawyers to effectuate the right that the Supreme Court had recognized. And for that, Matthew Diaz was prosecuted. He was prosecuted and he was convicted by his country. What Matthew Diaz did was legally wrong and he is the first to admit it. And he has paid a terrible price and he will continue to pay that price for the remainder of his career. But it was also an act of great personal courage during what the Supreme Court euphemistically calls troublous times. And for that, we are deeply in his debt. (Applause.)


So, my friends, please join me in welcoming this year's Ridenhour Truth-telling Prize, Matthew Diaz. (Standing ovation.)


MATTHEW DIAZ: Thank you. Thank you, everyone. Thank you, Joe. As a matter of fact, we, my defense team during the trial preparations, we had requested that Mr. Margulies be allowed to testify for the defense to educate the jury about the goings-on down at Gitmo. Of course, the government prosecutors fought our efforts to bring him into my trial. And the military judge ruled against us. So the jury did not have the benefit of his insight and his background in working so hard, as he has, on behalf of all of us, we, the people in this country, to ensure that our laws were being recognized and properly enforced. But I thank you for coming here to share this special moment with me and for saying the kind words that you have.


I'd also like to thank everybody involved who is associated with the Ridenhour awards process. I'd like to give a few shout-outs to some people you may not know, but who have been with me all along throughout this process. The attorneys and staff at Remcho, Johansen, & Purcell in California--they worked behind the scenes during my court martial, assisted greatly my attorneys who defended me at my court martial. And they are taking the lead in my appeal. And they are doing it all pro bono because they're good people. I really appreciate their help. (Applause.)


I'd also like to thank the Catholic Worker Hospitality House out of San Bruno, California. For without them, I probably would not have been able to have a Savannah attorney represent me along with my military counsel at my court martial. And after being released from the brig in October with a sudden drop in income--no income, as a matter of fact--they assisted in keeping me from being homeless. (Applause.)


Of course, my family who has supported me throughout these times, particularly my mother who has come to join me from Chicago and my sister coming in from Chicago. (Applause.) Of course, my daughter who has not lost faith in her papi; thank you very much, Mi Hija. (Applause.)


And unfortunately, my wife, who had just finished nursing school in November and started a new job in January, could not get out of work to join me. But as it turned out, she ended up missing work because she was feeling a bit under the weather. But I could not have gone through this without her support, her driving up to Charleston every other weekend--a four-hour drive one way--to visit me and to keep my spirits high. I could not have done this without her and-- (inaudible, applause).


But most importantly, Mr. Ron Ridenhour for inspiring this award. Looking at the past winners, as we have, of The Ridenhour Prizes, I am honored and truly humbled to be recognized among such amazing individuals: people who are inspirational, people who I'm proud to ask my daughter to emulate. Of all the awards in my life--and I've received many over my 21-year military career--this is hands-down my most cherished award. I'm being recognized for an act of conscience.


Like Ron and other recipients of this award, I believe in the Constitution. Granted, this country's history is far from perfect, but we, the people, have accepted this imperfect past and decided to live our lives in accordance with this great document. As an Army soldier and a Navy sailor, I raised my right hand to support and defend this Constitution. The oath of office I took, particularly as a naval officer, required me to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that I would bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution and the country whose course it directs.


Per this oath, my loyalty is to the Constitution and this nation, not any individuals, military or civilian. I was hired by the Navy because the Navy wanted me for my brain. It surprised me - (laughter) - when they accepted me into the JAG corps. But they hired me for my brain, not my fighting skills. I'm tasked and I was tasked to interpret and apply the law and the regulations we're required to abide by. The law--as I was taught at the Army's JAG school, when I was pursuing my master's in military law just two short years before being assigned at Guantánamo--the law as I was taught, the international law as I was taught, one full semester during that program, the law of this nation that's so strongly advocated over the years, that has led other nations, sometimes by force, to observe and to get other nations to comply with these minimal standards. But with the Constitution, my legal training, Supreme Court ruling, and my own morality as my compass, it wasnot long into my tour at Guantánamo before it was clear to me that we were doing things contrary to the law.


As Professor Ellen Yaroshefsky from the Cardozo School of Law put it recently, I was operating in a system that had badly derailed from fundamental norms of justice. It was outrageous that a few unaccountable leaders and their House lawyers could turn everything we stand for in the wrong direction and then lie about it. We are fortunate to have courageous individuals, military individuals, military personnel such as--and I name Geoffrey Corn, a retired Army JAG who is now on the faculty at South Texas College of Law; Admirals Gouder and Hudson, the top Navy lawyers at the JAG Corps during my time in the JAG Corps, inspirational mentors and leaders. We're also fortunate to have courageous individuals such as principled civilians who have visited Guantánamo and looked closely at the situation there. These courageous individuals, military and civilian, they use their knowledge to reveal the truth rather than subvert it.


For me, I had to act. Who knew when the names of those prisoners would be revealed, if ever? Who knew when the truth about conditions in that prison would become known? I had no choice.


In my many readings about Guantánamo I've come across the following quote that I'd like to share with you; I came across it quite often. It's from Justice Louis Brandeis, Supreme Court justice, and it goes:


"Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole of the people by its example. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law and invites every man to become a law unto itself. It breeds anarchy. To declare that the end justifies the means would bring terrible retribution."


This Supreme Court justice got it.


Finally, I'd like to dedicate this award to those who pushed back, as best as they can, to oppose wayward policies and instead chose the moral, legal, ethical path in fulfilling their duties in defense of the enduring values of this great country we all call home.


Thanks very much. (Standing ovation.)


Note: interested parties should feel free to quote the following texts in part or in full. Any such use must include attribution to the ridenhour prizes, and to their sponsors "the nation institute" and the "fertel foundation."


Matthew Diaz, habeas corpus rights, Guantanamo | Salon

Apr 4, 2008 ... Ex-Navy officer Matthew Diaz gambled everything to uphold the rights of ... and like a number of his higher-ranking JAG superiors, he has proved that the ...
www.salon.com/opinion/conason/2008/04/04/diaz_gitmo/


The Ridenhour Prizes - Fostering the spirit of courage and truth

Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Diaz, 42, dropped out of high school and joined the Army as a 17-year-old ... The Navy subsequently decertified him as a JAG officer. ...
www.ridenhour.org/prizes_03.shtml


The Ridenhour Prizes - Fostering the spirit of courage and truth

... Prize) and former Navy JAG officer Matthew Diaz (Prize for Truth-Telling). ... and prize recipient Matthew Diaz, the former officer of the Navy's Judge ...
www.ridenhour.org/diaz_margulies_transcript.shtml


The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) Blog: Matthew Diaz to ...

Apr 1, 2008 ... The recipient of this year's Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling is Matthew Diaz, a former JAG officer at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, ...
pogoblog.typepad.com/pogo/2008/04/matthew-diaz-to.html




JAG gets 6 months, dismissal in Gitmo case

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By Andrew Scutro - Staff writer
Posted : Monday May 21, 2007 20:33:03 EDT

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He claimed he was trying to do the right thing by leaking information held in secret by the government, but seven Navy officers did not agree. After deliberating for three and a half hours, the jury sentenced Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Diaz to six months’ confinement and dismissal from the Navy.


Jurors asked in their recommendation to the convening authority, Rear Adm. Fredric Ruehe, that Diaz’s pay not be forfeited during his six-month confinement. Diaz has several dependents, including an ex-wife, a wife, a daughter, his mother and his father, who is on death row in California.


“I’m very, very happy with the result,” Diaz said as he left the courtroom after the sentence was read.


Although the sentence serves as a recommendation to the convening authority, Navy prosecutor Cmdr. Rex Guinn said Diaz would “[G]o into the brig immediately.”


Guinn said the prosecution team also was happy with the result.


“We think this will send a clear message that you can’t just release classified information no matter how good an intention you think you have.”


Navy prosecutors had asked the jury to confine Diaz for seven years and dismiss him from the Navy. Defense attorney Patrick McLain asked the jury to issue Diaz a letter of reprimand....

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