Stephen Abraham

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Stephen Abraham is an American lawyer and retired lieutenant colonel in the United States Army reserve, who was the first officer who served with the Office for the Administrative Review of the Detention of Enemy Combatants to publicly criticize the operations of the Combatant Status Review Tribunals.[1] In civilian life, he currently works for the law firm of Fink & Abraham in Newport Beach, California.[2]

In November 2009, he was a cosigner of the "Beyond Guantanamo", from Human Rights First and the Constitution Project, supporting prosecution in the Federal courts and opposing indefinite detention. [3] He has written that the Senate was correct in rejecting an amendment by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), which would have banned the use of federal funds to try any 9-11 Attack defendants in Federal court rather than a military commission. [4]

Military career

Abraham was commissioned in 1981.[5] According to the Boston Globe Abraham's reserve and active duty, since 1982, has been in intelligence.[2]

He served with OARDEC from September 2004 through March 2005. The Combatant Status Review Tribunals of the 558 captives then present at Guantanamo lasted from August 2004 through January 2005, and their confirmation by then Secretary of the Navy Gordon England was finished in March 2005.

Abraham's affidavit

CBS News quoted from an affidavit Abraham provided for a habeas corpus appeal on behalf of Fawzi al-Odah:[1] In his affidavit, he said "What were purported to be specific statements of fact lacked even the most fundamental earmarks of objectively credible evidence."[5] David Cynamon, a defense lawyer, praised Abraham's courage in making the affidavit, but expressed fears that it was "career suicide".[1]

According to the Washington Post Abraham felt compelled to come forward after hearing his former boss, Rear Admiral James McGarrah call the Tribunal process "fair". He, however, compared the hearsay evidence the Guantanamo captives faced to "a game of telephone".

He and two fellow panel members, Abraham said, were closely questioned by McGarrah and his deputy after they decided that there was not enough evidence to conclude that a prisoner was an enemy fighter, and were then ordered to hold an expanded hearing to reconsider their conclusion. That newspaper, however, quotes officials who asked for anonymity who claimed Abraham never raised his concerns with McGarrah, a fact Abraham disputes[6]

According to the Boston Globe Fawzi al-Odah's lawyers first contacted Abraham after his sister had attended a presentation they had made, and volunteered the information that her brother had been one of the Tribunals officers. It reported that more senior OARDEC officials met with the Tribunal members to determine "what went wrong" with the case, after they declined to confirm the captive's "enemy combatant" status during their second, extraordinary Tribunal session.[2] The Department of Defense keeps the Tribunal officer's identity a secret.

Paraphrasing Abraham the Associated Press reported: Abraham was asked to serve on one of the panels, and he said its members felt strong pressure to find against the detainee, saying there was "intensive scrutiny" when they declared a prisoner not to be an enemy combatant. When his panel decided the detainee wasn't an "enemy combatant," they were ordered to reconvene to hear more evidence. He was never asked to participate in another tribunal. During a CBS News telephone interview Abraham defended making the affidavit:

  • "I pointed out nothing less than facts, facts that can and should be fixed."
  • "I take very seriously my responsibility, my duties as a citizen."


Commander Chito Peppler, responded to the affidavit by claiming that the Office for the Administrative Review of Detained Enemy Combatant:[1] "...procedures afford greater protection for wartime status determinations than any nation has ever before provided... Lt. Col. Abraham provides his opinion and perspective on the CSRT process. We disagree with his characterizations. Lt. Col. Abraham was not in a position to have a complete view of the CSRT process."

According to the Boston Globe, after Abraham sat on a Tribunal he was assigned to serve as a liaison officer with the JTF-GTMO teams who were compiling the allegations against the captives for the Tribunals. They report that Abraham characterized the JTF-GTMO teams he worked with as: "...relatively junior officers with little training or experience in matters relating to the collection, processing, analyzing and/or dissemination of intelligence material."[2]