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Navy JAG Resigns Over Torture Issue
Knight Ridder   |  December 27, 2007
"It was with sadness that I signed my name this grey morning to a letter resigning my commission in the U.S. Navy," wrote Gig Harbor, Wash., resident and attorney-at-law Andrew Williams in a letter to The Peninsula Gateway last week. "There was a time when I served with pride ... Sadly, no more."

Williams' sadness stems from the recent CIA videotape scandal in which tapes showing secret interrogations of two Al Qaeda operatives were destroyed.

The tapes may have contained evidence that the U.S. government used a type of torture known as waterboarding to obtain information from suspected terrorists.

Torture, including water-boarding, is prohibited under the treaties of the Geneva Convention.

It was in the much-publicized interview two weeks ago between Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, who is the chief legal adviser at the Pentagon's Office of Military Commissions, that led Williams to resign.

In the interview, Graham asked Hartmann how the uniformed legal community should respond if the Iranian government used waterboarding to torture a U.S. solider into disclosing when the next U.S. military operation would occur.

Hartmann responded: "I am not prepared to answer that question."

For Williams, a former naval Lieutenant Commander and member of the Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAG), this answer went against "every training I had as an attorney" and as a member of the military.

Williams enlisted in the Navy in 1991 after completing law school at Santa Clara University. He was a legal officer and defense counsel in the U.S. Navy, meaning he both prosecuted and defended people in military courts.

He served on the USS Nimitz CVN-68, based in Bremerton, before becoming a member of the Naval reserves in 1995.

Williams, 43, felt that Hartmann was admitting torture is now an acceptable interrogation technique in the United States -- an admission that did not sit well with him.

"There was this saying in the Marines: 'We don't lie, cheat or steal, or tolerate people who do,' " Williams said. "And that sort of echoed through the Navy."

Williams felt that resigning from the reserves was not enough to demonstrate his dissatisfaction. He wrote to the Gateway hoping to set an example, echoing his same reason for joining the Navy two decades ago: "It was my way of serving the public," he said.

In his letter, Williams likened the use of torture by the United States to techniques used by the Spanish Inquisition, Nazi Germany and the Khmer Rouge. He also wrote that he hopes "the truth about torture, illegal spying on Americans and secret renditions is coming out."

Williams doubts that much will come of his letter of resignation and acknowledges that his life in Gig Harbor -- which consists of practicing personal injury law and spending time with wife and young son -- will not change much.

"I suspect (the Navy is) probably going to be fine with it," he said. "I doubt they would keep me in voluntarily."

He also states that, although reserve officers only perform military service once a year, he "probably would have stayed on if this hadn't happened, both for sentimental value and if something big happened where I was needed."

Outrage over CIA scandal

Below is an excerpt from the letter Andrew Williams submitted to The Peninsula Gateway. For the entire letter, see Letters to the Editor 16A.

"Thank you General Hartmann for finally admitting the United States is now part of a long tradition of torturers going back to the Inquisition. In the middle ages the Inquisition called waterboarding "toca" and used it with great success. In colonial times, it was used by the Dutch East India Company during the Amboyna Massacre of 1623.

"Waterboarding was used by the Nazi Gestapo and the feared Japanese Kempeitai. In World War II, our grandfathers had the wisdom to convict Japanese Officer Yukio Asano of waterboarding and other torture practices in 1947 giving him 15 years hard labor. Waterboarding was practiced by the Khmer Rouge at the infamous Tuol Sleng prison. Most recently, the United States Army court martialed a soldier for the practice in 1968 during the Vietnam conflict."

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