Air Force investigates senior Pentagon official

/ Source: The Associated Press

The Air Force is investigating a senior Pentagon official who was reassigned last month amid accusations of misconduct while overseeing the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals, according to a former chief prosecutor.

An investigation against Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann was recently opened following a complaint from a military defense lawyer, Air Force Col. Morris Davis told The Associated Press on Saturday.

Davis said Air Force Brig. Gen. Steven Lepper first called him two weeks ago to interview him about the complaints against Hartmann. The questions focused on Hartmann's influence on the prosecution of cases, Davis said.

"I'm optimistic that this current round of investigations will lead to something productive," said Davis, who quit as chief prosecutor in October 2007 after clashing with Hartmann. "You'd think that after three strikes, he'd be out."

Questions about fairness
Defense lawyers and human-rights groups have accused Hartmann, who supervised the prosecution of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, of lacking neutrality and pushing for prosecutions that would captivate the public for political gain, even before the detainees were ready to be charged.

The Los Angeles Times first reported the investigations of Hartmann on Saturday. It said both the Air Force and the Department of Defense's Office of the Inspector General have launched separate probes into Hartmann's conduct.

Joseph DellaVedova, a spokesman for the Pentagon's Office of Military Commissions, told The AP it was an Air Force investigation and declined further comment.

"It's an ongoing investigation and inappropriate to say anything until it is complete," he wrote in an e-mail.

Air Force Capt. Paula Bissonette, a tribunals spokeswoman, did not return several messages seeking comment.

The investigation shows that serious questions remain about the fairness of the commissions, said Jennifer Daskal, a lawyer with Human Rights Watch.

"The Department of Defense has absolutely refused to clean house," she said. "This may be the final straw. We'll have to wait and see."

Hartmann was appointed director of operations, planning and development for military commissions in September after serving as the commissions' legal adviser. The move took him away from direct supervision of the prosecution.

Two judges had previously barred him from acting as legal adviser for a lack of impartiality, and military colleagues have said he was abusive and unprofessional.

Daniel Dell'Orto, the Defense Department's acting general counsel, has previously credited Hartmann for his effort and dedication in driving the commissions process forward.

Davis said the new investigation was opened following complaints from defense lawyer Air Force Maj. David Frakt.

Frakt did not immediately return messages seeking comment.