Drinking from a Poisoned Chalice Post 9/11: Defending the Rule of Law in the Guantanamo Bay Military Commissions
Wednesday, October 17, 2018
4:30 PM - 5:30 PM
Seventeen years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the military commissions established at Guantanamo Bay to try suspected terrorists have failed to provide fair trials. Brigadier General John G. Baker, Chief Defense Counsel, Military Commissions Defense Organization, offers a unique and up-close view of the commissions, explaining how and why this important and novel legal system fails to meet basic trial and constitutional standards.
The Military Commissions Defense Organization’s mission is to “provide ethical, zealous, independent, client-based defense services under the Military Commissions Act in order to defend the rule of law and maintain public confidence in the nation’s commitment to equal justice under the law.” As the head of the organization, Brig. Gen. Baker wrestles with the consequential issues of national security, capital cases, torture, and a myriad of ethical and unique matters lawyers have rarely, if ever, faced. His remarks offer important insights into how the military commissions depart from the rule of law, international standards, and the United States’ noble legacy at Nuremberg.
Brigadier General John G. Baker is the Chief Defense Counsel (CDC) for the Military Commissions Defense Organization. In his capacity as the CDC, he oversees a joint service and total force staff of more than 156 military and civilian lawyers, paralegals, investigators, intelligence analysts, defense security officers, translators and administrative officers providing the full spectrum trial defense services to GTMO detainees charged under the MCA, to include capital cases.
Prior to his appointment as the CDC for the Military Commissions, General Baker served as the Deputy Director, Judge Advocate Division, for Military Justice and Community Development. He was responsible for oversight of the Marine Corps military justice practice and the professional development of the Marine Corps legal community. General Baker also served as the Marine Corps representative to the Department of Defense’s Joint Service Committee on Military Justice. Before serving as Deputy Director, General Baker served as the CDC of the Marine Corps and was responsible for mentoring, training, and supervising all defense attorneys and defense support personnel across the Marine Corps in their litigation of hundreds of courts-martial each year. While serving as the CDC of the Marine Corps, General Baker established the Marine Corps' Defense Services Organization which transformed the delivery of defense counsel to Marines and sailors charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Prior to this position General Baker served as the Regional Defense Counsel for the Eastern Region where he mentored and trained Marine Corps defense attorneys at all Marine Corps installations east of the Mississippi and in theater when II Marine Expeditionary Force was forward. General Baker also carried a small case load of complex cases, which included capital murder, serious sexual assaults, and other felonies, as well as allegations of misconduct by senior officers. Before serving as the Regional Defense Counsel-East, General Baker personally participated in several hundred courts-martial and served in a variety of leadership and litigation billets within the Marine Corps legal community, to include Military Judge, Staff Judge Advocate and Law Center Director at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Senior Trial Counsel, Military Justice Officer, Chief Trial Counsel, Special Assistant United States Attorney, and Senior Defense Counsel.
Prior to becoming a judge advocate, General Baker served as a supply officer until he was selected to attend law school under the Law Education Program. Brigadier General Baker is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law (J.D. 1997), Averett University (M.B.A. 1992), and Union College (B.S. 1989). He also holds a LL.M. from The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School (TJAGLCS), U.S. Army (2005). General Baker has been a faculty member for the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorney’s Capital Voir Dire Training and has lectured at Yale Law School, University of Pennsylvania School of Law, Pittsburgh School of Law, University of Colorado Law School, the Louisiana Capital Defenders Course, the New York City Bar Association, TJAGLCS, and the Naval Justice School. His personal decorations include the Legion of Merit with one gold star, Meritorious Service Medal with three gold stars, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the Navy-Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, and the Combat Action Ribbon.
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