Office of Military Commissions

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Although the Office of Military Commissions was not established until February 10, 2004, through the issue of Department of Defense Directive 5105.70, which placed the "Appointing Authority For Military Commissions" in "the Office of the Secretary of Defense under the authority, direction, and control of the Secretary of Defense," on December 30, 2003, the Defense Department announced that it had already picked "Officials for Military Tribunal Posts."

According to the December 30, 2003, Department of Defense news release, the Department "named retired generals and current and retired attorneys general to fill positions in its new Office of Military Commissions [which] will oversee the legal proceedings involving detainees taken into custody during military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and held in U.S. military custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere."

Nominees were:

  • Retired Army Maj. Gen. John Altenburg was "named the appointing authority for military commissions by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ... In that position, Altenburg will be responsible for approving charges against individuals President George W. Bush has determined to be subject to the military order of November 13, 2001, as well as appointing commission members, and approving plea agreements. Altenburg will serve as a civilian."
  • Retired U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hemingway was "named as the Military Commission legal advisor, in which capacity he will provide legal advice to Altenburg. Hemingway is being recalled to active duty to serve in the position."
  • Military Commission Review Panel

"The review panel will study military commission proceedings, and if it finds material errors of law, it will return the case for further proceedings, 'including dismissal of charges,' according to the statement. The panel may also recommend disposition of cases to the secretary of defense, including on sentencing. Panel members will be commissioned as Army major generals during approximate two-year terms. More panel members may be appointed in the future.

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