Matthew Diaz

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Matthew Diaz
Lieutenant Commander Matt Diaz, during interview for The Wire, Guantanamo, 2004-12-31 -a.jpg
NationalityUnited States
Known forleaked the names of Guantanamo captives prior to their official publication

Matthew Mark Diaz is a former active-duty Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) and Judge Advocate General's Corps (JAGC) officer in the United States Navy.[1][2] In mid-to-late 2004, Diaz served a six-month tour of duty in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as deputy director of the detention center's legal office.[3] Early in 2005 as LCDR Diaz was concluding his tour, he sent an anonymous greeting card to The Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York civil liberties and human rights group. The card contained the names of the detainees held at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.[4] In July 2006, the United States government formally charged Diaz in a military court with five criminal counts related to the sending of these names, the most serious being that he intended to harm national security or advantage a foreign nation, a violation of the Espionage Act. In May 2007, he was convicted by a seven-member jury of military officers on 4 of 5 counts. He served a 6-month prison sentence and was dismissed from the military.

In April 2008, he was awarded the Ridenhour Prize for Truth Telling.[5]

Diaz is currently employed with The Bronx Defenders as an intake coordinator.[6]

Family background[edit]

Diaz was born in 1965 in Gary, Indiana. He is one of six children. Diaz is a father to three children. His father is Robert Diaz, a California Registered Nurse convicted in 1984 for the murders of a dozen patients at two southern California hospitals. Robert Diaz's conviction was controversial, and he maintained his innocence until his death in 2010.[7][8] Matthew Diaz dropped out of high school to enlist in the U.S. Army at the age of 17. He obtained his GED and a bachelor's degree in Criminology during his nearly nine years of Army service. After obtaining his law degree at Washburn University School of Law in 1994, Diaz was commissioned as a naval officer in the U.S. Navy's Judge Advocate General's Corps. He continues to play an active role in the life of his three children.

Diaz`s father died of natural causes, while still in custody, in 2010.[9]

Military career[edit]

Diaz spent approximately twenty years in military service.[10] Diaz dropped out of high school when he was 17 years old.[11] Diaz served eight years as an enlisted man in the United States Army, prior to being commissioned in the USN's Judge Advocate General Corps, after earning a law degree. Matthew Diaz served his country as a deputy staff judge advocate at Guantánamo. Diaz received numerous awards throughout his career and received the highest praises of his superiors in annual fitness reports.


On July 28, 2006, Diaz was formally charged with improperly mailing suspected classified information about detainees in the Guantanamo Bay detainment camps to an individual unauthorized to receive it, in this case the Center for Constitutional Rights.[10] Diaz was convicted and on May 18, 2007, he was sentenced to six months in prison and faced dismissal from the Navy.[12]

Scott Horton wrote:

Matthew Diaz found himself in a precarious position—as a uniformed officer, he was bound to follow his command. As a licensed and qualified attorney, he was bound to uphold the law. And these things were indubitably at odds.[13]

The suspect document[edit]

Barbara Olshansky, of the Center for Constitutional Rights, was the recipient of the document, placed alongside an unmarked Valentines Day card.[14][15] While Olshansky had requested a list of all detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay detainment camps, the military had failed to provide one. The list provided by Diaz contained the names of 550 captives. The list had seven fields per entry.[16] The 558 names in the official list of captives whose enemy combatant status was confirmed by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal had just three fields. According to the background page to the charges against Diaz, the other six fields of the entries describing captives were:

Internment Serial Number
  • The two official lists both contain an ISN, which seems to be some kind of identification number, but they don't say what it is.
  • The ISN numbers of the 759 captives on the two official lists ran from 2 through 1457, with the exception of six captives who were captured in Bosnia, and Martin Mubanga who was captured in Africa. Their ISNs were in the range 10001 through 10007. The 14 high value captives transferred from CIA custody to military custody in Guantanamo all had ISN's in the range 10011 through 10024.
Source Identification number (if present) ?
GTMO Identification number ?
country of citizenship
Both of the official lists name just one country associated with each captive.
Collection Management & Dissemination team number ?

The captives' names had not, at that time, been officially confirmed.[15] Olshansky did not know what to make of receiving the list in this manner, so she contacted Federal authorities.

Diaz was not directly involved in either the defense or prosecution of the ten detainees who faced charges before the Guantanamo military commissions.[10] He served as a legal advisor to the JTF-GTMO, the command responsible for detention operations.

Profiled in The Guantanamo trap[edit]

Diaz was one of the four individuals profiled in the award-winning documentary The Guantanamo trap.[17] The other three individuals were Murat Kurnaz, a former Guantanamo captive; Diane Beaver, another military lawyer, best known for drafting a memo later called "the torture memo"; and Gonzalo Boye a Spanish lawyer who tried to lay charges, in Spain, against individuals he saw as responsible for war crimes committed in Guantanamo.


Diaz was disbarred, after his release.[9][18][19] In 2008, Diaz`s license to practice law had been suspended.[20] In 2011, Diaz appeared before a 3-member disciplinary panel. After a day-long hearing, the panel recommended a 3-year suspension, retroactive to 2008 and that Diaz should be immediately reinstated to the Kansas Bar. The Kansas Supreme Court rejected the panel's recommendation and instead took the harsher measure of disbarment—claiming he revealed information that could have allowed terrorists to identify Guantamao staff—and claiming Diaz thus opened Guantanamo staff to a fear of retaliation. Diaz`s lawyer, Jack Focht, issued a statement that stated the Kansas Supreme Court, "has a different view of the lawyer's duty to see that the client, even though the client is the United States government, does have a duty to obey the dictates of the United States Supreme Court." Diaz was disbarred on November 21, 2012, and will have to wait seven years before he can request re-instatement.


  1. ^ "U.S. Navy says officer passed secret Guantanamo data". Washington DC: New Zealand Herald. 2006-08-30. Archived from the original on 2012-11-22. Retrieved 2012-11-22. Lt Cmdr Matthew Diaz, stationed from July 2004 to January 2005 at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, faced a total of eight counts of three criminal charges and could spend 36 1/2 years in prison if convicted on all, the Navy said.
  2. ^ Sung, Michael (May 19, 2007). "Former Guantanamo military lawyer sentenced to 6 months for leaking names". Jurist Legal News and Research. University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Archived from the original on 2012-11-22. Retrieved 2007-05-19.
  3. ^ Rosenberg, Carol (May 17, 2007). "Naval lawyer guilty of spilling captives' names". Miami Herald. Archived from the original on May 20, 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-19.
  4. ^ Egerton, Brooks (May 18, 2007). "'Moral decision' jeopardizes Navy lawyer's career". The Dallas Morning News. Archived from the original on 2007-05-18. Retrieved 2007-05-19.
  5. ^ "The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling". 2012. Archived from the original on 2012-11-22. Matthew Diaz said no. While others were swept away by the passions of the moment and uncritical deference to authority, Lt. Cmdr. Diaz demonstrated independent judgment, fidelity to the Constitution, and uncommon courage. By disclosing the names of prisoners secretly detained at Guantánamo, he broke ranks and he violated the law, and for that he has paid a serious price. But we believe that he also demonstrated a profound loyalty to the United States and its enduring constitutional principles. We therefore honor him with the Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling.
  6. ^ "Matt Diaz - The Bronx Defenders". Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  7. ^ Tim Golden (October 21, 2007). "Naming Names at Gitmo". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2012-11-22. Retrieved 2007-10-26.
  8. ^ Joe Conason. "A truth teller who deserves justice". Archived from the original on 2012-11-22. Retrieved 2008-04-04.
  9. ^ a b Tony Rizzo (2012-11-21). "Kansas disbars lawyer involved in Guantanamo case". Bellingham Herald. Archived from the original on 2012-11-22. His father was convicted and sentenced to death, but died in prison of natural causes in 2010. Diaz had strong feelings that the Guantanamo detainees should have the same legal rights to appeal as his father had.
  10. ^ a b c Kate Wiltrout (2006-08-29). "Navy lawyer once posted at Cuba base is charged". Virginian Pilot. Archived from the original on 2012-11-22. According to the eight specific counts against him, which the Navy released Monday, Diaz deliberately made "a print out of classified secret information connected with the national defense" between Dec. 20, 2004, and Feb. 28, 2005. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "VirginiaPilot060829" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  11. ^ Jody Metzger (2004-12-31). "15 minutes of fame with Lieutenant Commander Matt Diaz". Guantanamo Bay detention camp: The Wire (JTF-GTMO). p. 8. Retrieved 2016-08-05. Navy Lt. Cmdr Matt Diaz left life on the street at 17 to join the Army. Starting with a General Education Degree (GED), he now is a lawyer working as a deputy staff judge advocate.[dead link]
  12. ^ "Jury Recommends 6 Months for Topeka Lawyer". WIBW-TV. 2007-05-18. Archived from the original on 2012-11-22. The jury of seven Navy officers recommended Friday that Diaz receive his pay and benefits while incarcerated, but the sentence must still be approved by Rear Admiral Rick Ruehe. The dismissal will also be reviewed by a military appellate court, the Navy said.
  13. ^ Scott Horton (2008-04-08). "A Tale of Three Lawyers". Harper's Magazine. Archived from the original on 2009-04-04. Retrieved 2009-04-04.
  14. ^ Navy lawyer convicted of leaking Guantanamo names
  15. ^ a b Jeannie Shawl (May 9, 2007). "Jury selection begins in Guantanamo names court-martial". The Jurist. Archived from the original on 2012-11-22. Retrieved 2007-05-09.
  16. ^ "Response to Government motion requesting an Article 39a session and Defense motion to suppress evidence (.doc)". Department of the Navy General Court-Martial Navy and Marine Corps Trial Judiciary Central Judicial Circuit. March 12, 2007. Archived from the original (DOC) on February 5, 2007. Retrieved May 9, 2007.
  17. ^ "Documentary holds up four-sided mirror to Guantanamo Bay". Deutche World. 2011-08-29. Archived from the original on 2011-11-18. Retrieved 2011-11-18. As a Navy lawyer at Guantanamo Bay, Matt Diaz copied a list of prisoners and posted it to a human rights organization in New York, morally compelled to speak out against the atrocities he had witnessed at Guantanamo. His thanks came in the form of deafening silence from human rights defenders and a six-month prison sentence for defying his superiors and his government.
  18. ^ Ritika Singh (2012-10-25). "Today's Headlines and Commentary". Lawfare. Archived from the original on 2012-11-22. Retrieved 2012-11-22. Matthew Diaz, a former Navy lawyer who faced court martial in 2008 for sending classified information about Guantanamo Bay detainees to the Center for Constitutional Rights, is looking to have his law license reinstated, according to John Milburn of the AP.
  19. ^ "Kan. Supreme Court disbars former Navy attorney". Wall Street Journal. 2012-11-21. Archived from the original on 2012-11-22. Retrieved 2012-11-22. The justices rejected efforts by Matthew Diaz, who was licensed to practice law in Kansas in 1995, to have his license reinstated so he could practice law in New York. Diaz argued that he was torn between what he believed was his ethical duty to see that the detainees received legal counsel and his duties as a military officer to obey orders.
  20. ^ John Milburn (2012-11-21). "Kan. Supreme Court disbars former Navy attorney". Wichita Eagle. Archived from the original on 2012-11-22. Retrieved 2012-11-22.

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