JAG General “not equipped to answer” if an Iranian waterboarding uniformed airman would violate Geneva

I previously blogged about the Senate Judicary Committee’s Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security hearing regarding Guantanamo.

In that post I mentioned that it would be wise for the committee to invite Colonel Morris Davis who recently resigned from his position as Chief Prosecutor. In resigning, Colonel Davis, according to this LA Times Report, “cited what he considered inappropriate political pressures on the legal process in his decision to seek reassignment.” In a subsequent LA Times Editorial Colonel Davis cited as reasons for his resignation his firm and public determination to not offer evidence derived from methods which might amount to torture, including specifically waterboarding.

Volokh later picked up on the story here, confirming what I had blogged about, that the Pentagon had ordered Colonel Davis to not testify. Volokh linked to this TPM Muckraker story with video discussing that Colonel Davis was in fact invited. In his place, the Pentagon sent Brigadier General Hartman. Importantly, disagreements between BG Hartmann and Colonel Davis were part of what led Colonel Davis to resign. More on those issues here.

Well, the Pentagon sure did themselves a disservice by having BG Hartmann testify. What would Colonel Davis have testified to? Amos Guoira has posted a transcript and video of an NBC Nightly News interview with Colonel Davis here, which gives us an idea of what Colonel Davis would have said.

BG Hartmann, on the other hand testified that he was “not equipped” to answer whether it would be a violation of the Geneva Conventions for Iranian forces to waterboard a uniformed airman. Now this is not a question about whether waterboarding is torture, it is a straightforward IHL question about whether waterboarding a uniformed airman violates the Geneva Conventions. Senator Graham was understandably disgusted by BG Hartmann’s answer.

Balkinzation has some on the issue here, as does Think Progress.