The lecture was part of the National Security Studies Program’s three-day symposium on the future of security trends.
A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, Bravin is a Supreme Court correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, where he has long focused on covering war-on–terror tribunals. He is the author of “The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay.”
His book recounts the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay. In it, Bravin goes deep into congressional testimony, inspector general reports and court room transcripts to emphasize how the Bush administration disregarded the government’s authority to sanction war crimes by ignoring the normal legal system of accountability.
During the lecture, Bravin shared his experiences on his first-hand coverage of Sept. 11, which became a catalyst for his work with the Guantanamo commissions.
“It was an event that, for me, framed the reporting that would come afterwards,” Bravin said, “As we tried to figure out what the story was for me, a legal reporter, the aspect of the story I was following was: how is our legal structure and legal system responding?”
Bravin went on to discuss the complex history of military commissions and their relation to the current issues at Guantanamo Bay. Bravin said the best examples of past military commissions were held after World War II by the U.S. Army and Navy, prosecuting captured Axis soldiers for war crimes.
“These were similar to courts marshal as they existed at the time,” Bravin said, “Courts marshal today are much more elaborate and have many more wheels of procedure.”
Bravin held the attention of everyone in the room for the rest of his lecture, which covered the vast legal issues of military commissions that are recounted in his book.
The UNM School of Law has various connections to the Guantanamo Bay Commissions.
According to the law school, Associate Law Professor Dawinder Sidhu has been a legal observer of military commissions in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In addition, alumna Nancy Hollander represents two Guantanamo detainees, including Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who authored the New York Times bestselling book, “Guantanamo Diary.”
UNM School of Law’s Dean David Herring said the lecture was fascinating.
“It gave us the whole historical background on things that are now hitting the press daily,” Herring said. “People are just riveted by it, so to have (Bravin) here doing this is just fantastic.”
Attorney Walker Boyd said he was pleased overall by Bravin’s talk.
“I’ve been to Guantanamo,” Boyd said. “I really like Jess Bravin’s book, and it was great to hear him talk and touch on all the stuff he talked about in the book, and also about what he knows about what is going on there now.”
Herring said these lectures are a great way to bring students and alumni together. He said that the topics discussed in this lecture will have an impact on the law school.
“Students can take this into the classroom,” Herring said, “especially their criminal law classes and procedure classes. They can ask hard questions to the professors, which provides good moments for discussion.”
Robert Salas is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RobertSalasUNM.