Cheney accused of leaking Khadr tape

Cheney accused of leaking Khadr tape

Steven Edwards
CanWest News Service

Monday, March 03, 2008
NEW YORK - Lawyers for Omar Khadr are to probe whether U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney's office leaked an incriminating video tape of the Canadian terror suspect, a court filing yet to be made public reveals.
The CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes ran the footage, which shows Khadr apparently helping make a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, in a report that aired mid-November.
The show's producers refuse to say how they obtained the video, but it's believed very few copies of it existed, and all were designated confidential after being cloned from a master copy seized by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
In the court filing, Khadr's defence team says Col. Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor of the Military Commission that will try the Canadian at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has stated his belief Cheney's office was responsible for leaking the video.
This occurred at a recent meeting the defence team held with Davis, who resigned in early October, citing political interference in the commission's plan to try up to 80 of the 275 remaining terror suspects held at the Guantanamo base.
The brief conveys that in return for the tape, 60 Minutes shelved a separate report it had been preparing involving an interview with Davis just after he resigned.
"It's not true," Leanne McBride, a spokeswoman for Cheney, said about alleged contact between Cheney's office and 60 Minutes over the matter, and of any leaking by the office of the Khadr tape, known as the "bomb-making video."
A 60 Minutes spokesman also denied any deal making, saying a confidential source provided the tape before the show started reporting on Davis following his resignation.
"The two stories are independent of one another and neither included any contact with Vice-President Dick Cheney's office," Kevin Tadesco, said. "We continue to report on the Davis story."
In addition to interviewing Davis, 60 Minutes' Morley Safer interviewed Brig.-Gen. Tom Hartmann, the legal adviser to the Pentagon office overseeing the commission.
The two interviews will have balanced each other off, with Davis critical of the commission system, Hartmann defending it.
"According to Col. Davis, the interview with Brig. Gen. Hartmann had not 'gone well,' and the Vice President's office apparently offered 60 Minutes the much-sought-after video tape in exchange for not airing the piece," the defence court brief says.
"This matter is likely to be the subject of a future motion pending further factual development by the defence."
Davis, now director of the Air Force Judiciary, was subsequently interviewed by Dan Rather for the former CBS Evening News anchor's Dan Rather Reports show on HDNet.
Davis told Canwest News Service a producer from that show said 60 Minutes had "gotten bought off" and consequently "weren't going to run" the report for which he had been interviewed.
The producer, Sianne Garlick, had formerly worked at 60 minutes, to which Dan Rather also formerly contributed.
Davis added that ahead of the mid-December airing of the Rather show, "it also came up . . . that 60 Minutes had gotten a call from the Vice President's Office."
Wayne Nelson, executive producer for Dan Rather Reports, said he was present on the day Rather interviewed Davis, but could recall no one mentioning there'd been a purported contact between the Vice President's Office and 60 Minutes.
"It's a great story if it's true," he said. "I've heard rumours to that effect, but that's all. No confirmation of it."
Garlick said she has no idea why the 60 Minutes interview with Davis didn't run, but added she "thought it was a good story and so we did our own interview."
The Pentagon refused to make Hartmann available to Dan Rather Reports, so the show filmed him giving testimony at a public governmental hearing.
Davis admitted he had no first hand knowledge of any deal over the tape, but dismissed the idea that any commission prosecutor, either under him, or under his successor, Col. Lawrence Morris, would have taken "that big of a risk" to leak it.
He also dismissed the idea the defence leaked it.
"The defence had done everything humanly possible to prevent anybody from seeing it," he said. "It doesn't paint (Khadr) in a real favourable light. I can't imagine any reason (for which) they would have an interest in seeing that tape aired."
Khadr's attorneys had opposed prosecution requests to run the tape in court, but in an interview Lt.-Cmdr. Bill Kuebler, his chief military defence lawyer, sought to minimize its importance.
"While at worst, it shows he was employed as a child soldier, the fact it came out suggests someone leaked it to prop up the prosecution," he said of Khadr, who was 15 when U.S. troops seized him on an Afghan battlefield in 2002.
"There was no one closer to this process than Col. Davis, and if he thinks it was the VP's office, that's very significant to me."
Proving government misuse of prosecution evidence could provide Kuebler with grounds to seek dismissal of the charges against his client.
The Canadian is accused of war crimes, including murder of a U.S. soldier in a grenade attack, and faces up to life imprisonment if convicted.
The court filing quoting Davis is part of a defence bid to seek a postponement of a scheduled April hearing to give defence attorneys more time to gather evidence.
Barring any successful motions to dismiss the case, Khadr's trial is expected to begin in May.