Custodian's Leave

John McCaslin
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Posted: Jun 16, 2008 10:18 AM
Custodian's Leave

"I view it very much as a national treasure, and I am the temporary custodian and try to take care of it, and hopefully pass it off in good shape one day."

-Tim Russert, in an interview with Inside the Beltway on Nov. 14, referring to NBC's "Meet the Press," the most watched Sunday morning interview program in America and the most quoted news program in the world, which he began moderating in 1991.

Cuban postcard

Get a load of some of these excerpts from the new book by U.S. Army Maj. Kyndra Rotunda, a former military lawyer who served on the prosecution team in Guantanamo Bay, where she was legal adviser to an elite team of war-crimes investigators.

Titled "Honor Bound: Inside the Guantanamo Trials," the book, among other eye-opening tidbits, contains some unlikely observations from several terrorist detainees, including one who apparently didn't want to leave the otherwise-notorious U.S. military detention facility in Cuba:

"Not surprisingly, the Army reviews detainee mail. The detainee's letter included poetic verses about the nice weather and the beautiful sunsets over Guantanamo Bay. He closed the letter by saying something like, 'Wish you were here!'" she writes.

"Later I heard about a detainee who the Army offered to release. But, when it informed the detainee, he said, 'No thanks. The weather will be nicer in my country next spring. I'll wait until then.' "

Then there was the "Australian Taliban" who Maj. Rotunda says demanded - and received - a fancy suit of clothes, paid for by American taxpayers, to wear to court.

"[David] Hicks' defense team filed a lengthy motion to prohibit the prosecutors from forcing the defendant to wear prison clothes at his trial," she explains. "The motion was unnecessary because the accused was never required to wear a prison uniform to hearings. In fact, he wore an $800 Brooks Brothers suit - paid for by the U.S. government."

As for the treatment of terrorist detainees at the camp, she describes how the prisoners "live in open bays, eat their meals outside together around picnic tables and serve themselves in home-style fashion from large, communal pots.

"Camp Four offers both soccer fields and basketball courts. The U.S. government offers a selection of basketball shoes for detainees upon request," she adds. "Ohio treats its prisoners more harshly than the military treats detainees in Guantanamo."

As for background, Maj. Rotunda, a Judge Advocate General officer in the U.S. Army Individual Ready Reserve, works in private practice, devoting much of her time to advocating for wounded troops and military families. She's represented hundreds of soldiers before their disability boards at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

She will be welcomed to the Heritage Foundation for a noon book lecture Monday hosted by former Attorney General Edwin I. Meese III.

Tomato chasers

Last week, when breaking news of salmonella-tainted tomatoes was barely two days old and the Food and Drug Administration was still searching for the cause of the contaminants, personal-injury lawyers were already at work, so to speak.

They were deploying misleading Web pages "in an effort to cook up future lawsuits," explains American Tort Reform Association director of communications Darren McKinney.

"There was a time not too long ago when legitimate plaintiffs would seek out an attorney on their own if they thought their injuries, caused by someone else's negligence or fraud, warranted compensation," he recalls.

"Now, well before the science and medical facts are known, and thus well before the remotest notion of liability can be reasonably established, trial lawyers are out there proactively trolling for clients with Web sites that are prevalent in Internet searches for information about the tomato scare."

He dubs the opportunistic lawyers "vegetable chasers."

Pingpong's role

In recognition of the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing this summer, the National Archives will soon display a special document and photograph of the U.S. table-tennis team at the Great Wall of China in 1971.

Both draw attention to what became known as "Pingpong Diplomacy," an athletic event that became part of diplomatic history.

The display features a 1971 State Department "Intelligence Brief" that repeats the remarks made by Chinese Prime Minister Chou En-lai to the American table-tennis team during their visit to China, in which he described a "new page" in the relationship between the U.S. and China.