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Former Gitmo prosecutor claims retaliation

  • Story Highlights
  • Military says it will not award Air Force Col. Morris Davis a service medal
  • Davis claims the decision is retaliation for criticizing a Pentagon official
  • Officials insist the move is based upon Davis' performance
  • Davis quit his post at Guantanamo in November over handling of terrorist cases
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From Carol Cratty
CNN Senior Producer
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The former chief prosecutor of military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said Thursday that he was denied a service medal for criticizing the trial process.

Col. Morris Davis says the military is retaliating against him for criticizing Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, above.

Last week, Air Force Col. Morris Davis said he was notified that he was denied the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, a relatively common decoration issued for achievement in a non-combat assignment.

Davis quit his post in October, declaring that the prosecutions of several suspected terrorists had become "deeply politicized."

He was particularly critical of Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, legal adviser to the military commissions.

The former prosecutor said this month that Hartmann failed to maintain a neutral position in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's former driver.

"He basically suited up and played for the prosecution," Davis said.

Based on testimony and evidence from the proceedings, a military judge ruled that Hartmann acted improperly and ordered him to stay out of the cases.

Davis, who said he previously received positive job reviews, thinks it is no coincidence that he was denied the commendation less than a month after he testified in Hamdan's case.

"I don't know what to call this other than reprisal," he said.

The military assistant to the Pentagon's general counsel's office, Col. Kelly Wheaton, told Davis in an e-mail that he was denied the medal because his service "has not been honorable."

"I wrote in my recommendation for disapproval that you quit your position when you were needed because you did not want to be supervised by a superior officer with whom you had a difference of opinion," Wheaton told Davis in an e-mail he shared with CNN. "I believe that this conduct was putting self above service."

Davis said he disagreed with the decision.

"If you can't differentiate unlawful command influence from a personal conflict, you have my deepest sympathy," Davis said he replied.

Hartmann said the reasoning behind the decision not to award Davis the medal "certainly was not retribution."

"My recommendation was based on my experience with Col. Davis," he said.

Hartmann said he believed that Davis showed a lack of leadership and failed to provide overall guidance to his office.

Hartmann said Davis did not train personnel under him appropriately and failed to provide them with the basic skills needed to prepare documents for trial.

He said the recommendations were a while in the making and maintained that they were not influenced by Davis' testimony.

"His comments and his attitude and his behavior after October 4, 2007, have nothing to do and had nothing to do with any recommendation," Hartmann said.

Hartmann said Wednesday that he did not believe he exerted any undue influence on prosecutors or the system.

Meanwhile, defense lawyers for several al Qaeda suspects facing trial before the military tribunals have cited Davis' allegations to argue that Bush administration officials are trying to rush the cases to influence the November presidential elections.

Davis, who is scheduled to retire October 1 after 25 years of service, said he told defense lawyers for other commission defendants that he will not participate in their cases.

He said he fears that further action may be taken against him if he continues to speak out, adding that his testimony is already hurting him as he looks for a job in the private sector.

"I've been told I'm too toxic," Davis said.

All About Osama bin LadenGuantanamo BaySalim Ahmed Hamdan

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