By Matthew Rothschild on January 12, 2010

Colonel Morris Davis is an outspoken guy. And it’s gotten him fired.

From September 2005 to October 2007, he served as the Pentagon’s chief prosecutor down in Guantanamo.

But he resigned on principle, going public with his view that the Bush Administration had politicized the trials and stacked the deck so badly against detainees that they couldn’t get a fair trial.

Colonel Davis then retired from the military and went on to work at the Library of Congress as assistant director in the foreign affairs, defense, and trade division of the Congressional Research Service.

While there, he continued to speak out against the military tribunals in Guantanamo. In an op-ed on November 10, 2009, in the Wall Street Journal, he took issue with the Obama Justice Department’s decision to try some Guantanamo detainees in federal court and others in military court.

“In effect, it means that the standard of justice for each detainee will depend in large part upon the government's assessment of how high the prosecution's evidence can jump and which evidentiary bar it can clear,” he wrote. “The evidence likely to clear the high bar gets gold medal justice: a traditional trial in our federal courts. The evidence unable to clear the federal court standard is forced to settle for a military commission trial, a specially created forum that has faltered repeatedly for more than seven years. That is a double standard I suspect we would condemn if it was applied to us.”

He also published a letter to the editor in The Washington Post on the same date, criticizing former Attorney General Michael Mukasey for contending that “the decision to try Guantanamo detainees in federal courts comes down to a choice between protecting the American people and showcasing American justice.” This, said Davis, was “fear mongering.”

Even though Davis made his comments on his own time and used his home computer to do so, the Library of Congress sacked him for it.

“On November 13, 2009, you were admonished in writing for your poor judgment and lack of discretion with respect to a letter to the editor and an opinion piece you authored for publication that appeared separately in The Wall Street Joumal and The Washington Post,” Daniel P. Mulhollan, director of the Congressional Research Service, wrote to Davis. “During a meeting on November 12, 2009, in which your conduct leading to the admonishment was discussed, you neither expressed remorse for your actions nor awareness that your poor judgment could do serious harm to the trust and confidence Congress reposes in CRS.”

On January 8, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Library of Congress to get Davis his job back, claiming the dismissal violated his First and Fifth Amendment rights.

“Col. Davis brings these claims not only to vindicate his own constitutional rights but also the public’s First Amendment right to receive his speech and hear his views,” the suit says.

Matt Raymond, director of communications for the Library of Congress, would not comment directly on the case.

“I'm sure you'll understand that now that there's actual litigation,” says Raymond, “we need to be extremely careful with what we say.”

Matthew Rothschild is the editor of The Progressive magazine. To subscribe for just $14.97 a year, just click here.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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