Moe Davis

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Moe Davis
Personal details
Morris Durham Davis

(1958-07-31) July 31, 1958 (age 65)
Shelby, North Carolina, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
EducationAppalachian State University (BS)
North Carolina Central University (JD)
University of Virginia (LLM)
George Washington University (LLM)
WebsiteOfficial website
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Air Force
Years of service1983–2008
Rank Colonel
UnitJAG Corps
Battles/warsOperation Southern Watch
AwardsLegion of Merit
Meritorious Service Medal (6)
Air Force Commendation Medal
Air Force Achievement Medal
Southwest Asia Service Medal
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal

Morris Durham "Moe" Davis (born July 31, 1958) is an American retired U.S. Air Force colonel, attorney, educator, politician, and former administrative law judge.

Davis was appointed the third Chief Prosecutor of the Guantanamo military commissions, where he served from September 2005 until October 2007.[1] He also served as director of the Air Force Judiciary.[2] He resigned from the position after he refused to use evidence obtained through torture and because of political influence and pressure in prosecutions. He retired from active duty in October 2008.

In 2019, he officially announced his candidacy to replace U.S. Congressman Mark Meadows, in the United States House of Representatives after Meadows resigned to serve as White House Chief of Staff.[3] On March 3, 2020, Davis won the Democratic primary for North Carolina's 11th congressional district with 52,665 votes.[4][5] He lost to Madison Cawthorn in his election bid to the House of Representatives in the 2020 general election.

Early life and education[edit]

Davis was born and raised in Shelby, North Carolina, He studied Criminal Justice at Appalachian State in the nearby town of Boone, North Carolina, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 1980. He received a J.D. from North Carolina Central University School of Law in 1983 and joined the Air Force as a J.A.G. officer in the same year. In 1992, he earned LL.M. degrees in military law (with a concentration in government procurement law) from JAG School at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, and in government procurement law from The National Law Center at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.[6]

Davis is currently living with his wife Lisa, who works for an animal rescue, in Asheville, North Carolina.[2]


Unlike his predecessors at Guantanamo, Fred Borch and Robert L. Swann, Davis has been a visible public figure.[1][7][8][9][10] His statements have triggered controversy.[11][12] Davis once said in an interview that he was asked to replace Borch at Guantanamo because of Borch's pushing of ethical bounds.[2]

Khadr's attorney, Muneer Ahmad of American University, accused Colonel Davis of ethical misconduct for referring to Khadr as a "terrorist" and a "murderer" during the January 10, 2006, press conference. Ahmad asked the Presiding Officer to sanction Colonel Davis for the comments, but the presiding officer found the comments were fair and balanced, given the repeated negative out of court statements Ahmad had made for months prior to the hearing. When asked why the prosecution had finally broken its silence, Davis said:[13]

For a number of months we've sat on the sidelines. We've just kind of taken it. There comes a time when you don't take it anymore.

On February 28, 2006, Davis spoke out again regarding the commissions, saying:[9]

Remember if you dragged Dracula out into the sunlight he melted? Well, that's kind of the way it is trying to drag a detainee into the courtroom.

Guantanamo defense attorney H. Candace Gorman countered in a Huffington Post op-ed that this was an odd statement from Davis since it was the military's fault that so few cases had come to trial before the military commissions. By early 2007, only David Hicks, an Australian citizen, was being tried, and all but one of the charges against him had been dropped before trial for lack of evidence.[14]

In March 2007, Davis threatened Major Michael Mori, the military defense counsel assigned to Hicks' case with prosecution under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, claiming that Mori had acted improperly in criticizing the military commissions while in Australia gathering evidence for the defense.[10][14][15][16] Mori responded angrily, "Are they trying to intimidate me?"[10]

Col. Dwight Sullivan, the Chief Defense Counsel for the military commissions, said that Major Mori's behavior as defense counsel was "absolutely proper."[10] He said that, "a military defense lawyer is supposed to provide the same level of representation as a civilian lawyer." He said that in pressing Mr. Hicks's case in Australia, "Major Mori is fulfilling his duty as an officer and as an attorney."[10]

Davis, similar to his father, is in the highest disability rating at 60 percent.[2]

"The Guantánamo I Know"[edit]

On June 26, 2007, an op-ed by Davis, entitled "The Guantanamo I know", was published in The New York Times.[17] In it, Davis argued that the Guantánamo Bay detention center is humane, professional, and operating in compliance with international law.

Supreme court to hear challenges to the Military Commissions Act[edit]

Congress authorized the military commission system under the Military Commissions Act of 2006, to create an alternative to the existing federal and military system. It restricted detainees as enemy combatants and those whose review was pending, to the military commission process; it prohibited their use of federal courts. The government stayed pending writs of habeas corpus.

On June 29, 2007, the Supreme Court agreed to hear some outstanding claims of habeas corpus, opening up the possibility that they might overturn some or all of the Military Commissions Act.[18]

Davis called the Supreme Court's intention to review the MCA "meddling": [19]

This constant uncertainty and meddling certainly takes a toll on people, It would be nice to have some certainty for a change.

Resignation as Chief Prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay[edit]

In October 2007, Colonel Davis resigned from his position as Chief Prosecutor. He had made the policy that evidence obtained from the use of waterboarding, which he considered torture, would not be admissible as evidence in the military commissions. By this time, charges were being developed against high-value detainees, some of whom had been waterboarded in the custody of the CIA. Davis was overruled in his policy by his superiors, including William J. Haynes, II, the General Counsel for the Department of Defense.

Davis resigned in protest and transferred to become the Head of the Air Force Judiciary, stating, "The guy who said waterboarding is A-okay I was not going to take orders from. I quit."[20] He also charged that there was meddling from the Pentagon in cases, and claimed this presented serious conflicts of interest.[21]

Davis said he was denied an end-of-tour medal for his two years at Guantanamo because he resigned and later spoke out about problems in the Pentagon's Office of Military Commissions. Davis stated about the medal denial, "I tell the truth, and I get labeled as having served dishonorably. I'm very concerned about the chilling effect ... on the process".[22] Since his resignation, Davis has frequently spoken out against the Commissions.[23]

In 2008, Davis was called by the defense to testify in the military commission of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's driver, where he repeated his accusations of political interference. He said Pentagon interest in the progress of trials of detainees greatly increased after September 2006, when high-value detainees were transferred from the CIA to Guantanamo.[20]

Congressional Research Service[edit]

Davis in January 2015

Davis was named the head of the Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division of the Congressional Research Service in December 2008; and was fired from this job in late November or early December 2009.[24] His firing was thought prompted because of an op-ed Davis published in The Wall Street Journal that criticized a federal proposal to prosecute detainees in either military commissions or federal courts; he believed that one venue had to be consistently used.[25] Davis wrote: "The administration must choose. Either federal courts or military commissions, but not both, for the detainees that deserve to be prosecuted and punished for their past conduct."[25]

Davis v. Billington[edit]

In 2010, Davis sued the Library of Congress for wrongful termination under the Hatch Act in Davis v. Billington, claiming his First Amendment free speech rights were violated. The lawsuit was settled out of court and in 2016, Davis announced that his personnel file had been amended to remove language indicating that he had been separated "for cause" and that the Library of Congress had agreed to pay $100,000 in the settlement.[26]

Crimes of War Education Project[edit]

Davis was Executive Director of the Crimes of War Education Project from 2010 to 2012.[27] He was assistant professor at Howard University School of Law from 2011 to 2015, teaching legal reasoning, research and writing, oral advocacy and national security law.[28]

Administrative law judge[edit]

Davis was an administrative law judge with the U.S. Department of Labor from 2015 to 2019, ruling on workers compensation cases involving issues from black lung disease to whistleblower cases, immigration visa appeals, child labor and other cases related to labor laws.

In the summer of 2019 Davis ruled[29] that a Baltimore, MD-based subsidiary of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Enterprise RAC Company of Baltimore, had violated United States labor law[30] while contracting for the Federal government. In his decision he ordered the company to pay a $6.6 million fine and offer other restitution for discrimination against African Americans in its hiring, training, and promotion selections.[31]

In an article on the lawsuit that preceded the Department of Labor ruling, The Baltimore Sun quoted an unnamed Enterprise company spokeswoman who contended that Enterprise had a "strong record of equal opportunity" in their hiring and employment practices and pointed to the company's recruitment outreach at HBCUs.[32]

2020 congressional campaign[edit]

On November 17, 2019, Davis announced his congressional bid for North Carolina's 11th congressional district held by Republican Mark Meadows. Davis says he initially ran for Congress because he did not see a Democrat challenger running at the time that would beat Meadows. However, once Meadows dropped out of the race, he continued running because "I figured I’ve got 30-plus years of defending democracy, and just to sit back now and watch it go down the drain just wasn’t palatable."[2] Davis entered the Democratic primary along with Democrats Michael O'Shea, Gina Collias, Phillip Price, and Steve Woodsmall. Davis won the primary on March 3, 2020, with 47.35 percent of the vote. Collias was a distant second with 22.67 percent.[33]

Davis lost the 2020 election to Madison Cawthorn, 54.5% to 42.4%. [34]

North Carolina's 11th congressional district, 2020[35] [36]
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Madison Cawthorn 245,351 54.5
Democratic Moe Davis 190,609 42.4
Libertarian Tracey DeBruhl 8,682 1.9
Green Tamara Zwinak 5,503 1.2
Total votes 450,145 100.0
Republican hold


Early endorsements for Davis came from progressive Democrats, legal scholars, and human rights activists. Chris Lu, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor under the Obama Administration pledged support, as did Fletcher, North Carolina-based civil rights attorney Frank Goldsmith, Harvard Law School professor and Constitutional Law expert Laurence Tribe, and Eugene R. Fidell, the Florence Rogatz Visiting Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School.[37] Davis was also endorsed by, which represents 700,000 progressive veterans; the Sierra Club; Equality NC and the AFL-CIO Western North Carolina Central Labor Council.

Political positions[edit]

During his post-military career Davis has published numerous op-eds and other criticisms of the Guantanamo Military Commission process.[38][39][40][41] On March 27, 2015, after Harvey Rishikof, the most recent convening authority for the Guantanamo military commissions was fired after less than a year on the job,[42] Morris wrote:

Think about that for a moment. If a professional football team was on its seventh head coach and sixth quarterback in less than a dozen years, that team would almost certainly be a loser.

Davis tweeted a claim that he was blocked by Donald Trump on Twitter prior to Trump's 2016 candidacy.[43]

Davis has openly opposed Trump's actions during his presidency. He finds it appalling that Trump isolated the Kurds, and he believes that Trump is undermining all the hard work it took to build up US alliances.[2]

Moe Davis attracted negative attention for his violence encouraging statements, "When @NCGOP extremists go low, we stomp their scrawny pasty necks with our heels and once you hear the sound of a crisp snap you grind your heel hard and twist it slowly side to side for good measure." He would be quoted on Twitter on several occasions for such violent rhetoric.[44]

Moe Davis accused his former opponent Congressman Madison Cawthorn of sedition under US law: "I was Chief Prosecutor at Guantanamo for over 2 years and there’s far more evidence of Congressman Madison Cawthorn’s guilt than there was of guilt for 95+ percent of the detainees. It’s time we start a domestic war on sedition by American terrorists."[45]

Military awards[edit]

Davis has received the following awards and recognition.[6]

Ribbon Description Notes
Ribbon of the LOM Legion of Merit
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Meritorious Service Medal Four oak leaf clusters
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Commendation Medal Two oak leaf clusters
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Force Achievement Medal One oak leaf cluster
Ribbon of the GWOT-EM Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal
Ribbon of the GWOT-SM Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
Ribbon of the SASM Southwest Asia Service Medal

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Beth Gorham (January 10, 2006). "Canadian no innocent, U.S. prosecutor argues". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on January 12, 2006. Retrieved 2006-01-10.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "ABILITY Magazine - Moe Davis for Congress — Judge for Yourselves". ABILITY Magazine. 2020-10-01. Retrieved 2020-10-11.
  3. ^ Wadington, Katie; Gordon, Brian. "After 8 years representing WNC, Mark Meadows will not run for re-election". Citizen Times.
  4. ^ Bush, Matt (4 March 2020). "WNC Results: Moe Davis Wins Dem Nod While GOP Goes To Runoff In NC11". BPR.
  5. ^ "Morris "Moe" Davis". Ballotpedia.
  6. ^ a b "Biography: Colonel Morris D. Davis" (PDF). Department of Defense. Retrieved 2007-06-28.
  7. ^ Davis' remarks resulted in legal actions against him for prosecutorial misconduct and bar complaints. After threatening to have defense counsel prosecuted, the accused in that matter was offered a deal to save Davis' career. Morris D. Davis (June 26, 2007). "The Guantánamo I Know". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-06-26.
  8. ^ "Prosecutor says teen should be tried by military tribunal". National Post. January 10, 2006. Archived from the original on March 11, 2007. Retrieved 2006-01-10.
  9. ^ a b "Prosecutor vows to proceed with war crimes trials". The Bradenton Herald. February 28, 2006. Archived from the original on March 11, 2007. Retrieved 2006-03-01.
  10. ^ a b c d e Bonner, Raymond (March 5, 2007). "Terror Case Prosecutor Assails Defense Lawyer". The New York Times. Retrieved May 13, 2010.
  11. ^ "All Is Not Well at Guantánamo (6 Letters)". The New York Times. June 27, 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-28.
  12. ^ "Guantánamo and U.S. justice". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2007-06-28.
  13. ^ "U.S. tribunal rejects gag order in Khadr case". Global National. January 13, 2006. Archived from the original on March 11, 2007. Retrieved 2006-01-15.
  14. ^ a b H. Candace Gorman (March 5, 2007). "Cully's Mentor MOE and His Six Point Plan". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2007-06-28.
  15. ^ H. Candace Gorman (May 22, 2007). "Is There a Larry Lurking in the Bushies?". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2007-06-28.
  16. ^ Bernard Hibbitts (March 5, 2007). "US military commissions prosecutor slams Hicks military lawyer for alleged excesses". JURIST. Archived from the original on May 9, 2009. Retrieved 2007-06-28.
  17. ^ Morris D. Davis (June 26, 2007). "The Guantánamo I Know". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-06-26.
  18. ^ Jeannie Shawl (June 29, 2007). "Supreme Court to hear Guantanamo Bay detainee habeas cases". JURIST. Archived from the original on July 1, 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-29.
  19. ^ James Vicini (June 29, 2007). "Court to hear Guantanamo prisoners appeals". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 2, 2012. Retrieved 2007-06-29.
  20. ^ a b Melia, Michael. Toronto Star, "Ex-Gitmo prosecutor charges Pentagon interference", April 29, 2008
  21. ^ Josh White (October 20, 2007). "Ex-Prosecutor Alleges Pentagon Plays Politics". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-10-20.
  22. ^ White, Josh, "Colonel Says Speaking Out Cost A Medal", The Washington Post, May 29, 2008, pg 9.
  23. ^ Amy Goodman (2008-07-16). "Fmr. Chief Guantanamo Prosecutor Says Military Commissions "Not Justice"". Democracy Now. Archived from the original on 2008-08-04. Retrieved 2008-07-18.
  24. ^ Michael Isikoff (2009-12-03). "Top Congressional researcher on Afghanistan fired". Newsweek magazine. Archived from the original on 2010-04-12. Retrieved 2015-03-28.
  25. ^ a b Morris Davis (2009-11-10). "Justice and Guantanamo Bay: It is a mistake to try some detainees in federal courts and others by military commissions". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 2011-11-16.
  26. ^ "Davis v. Billington". American Civil Liberties Union.
  27. ^ "Crimes Of War Education Project - GuideStar Profile".
  28. ^ "Interview with Col. Morris Davis – The Moderate Voice".
  29. ^ Campbell, Colin (August 2019). "Enterprise in Baltimore ordered to pay $6.6 million to rejected black applicants in hiring discrimination case".
  30. ^ "Enterprise Rent-a-Car's $6.6 Million Hiring Discrimination Suit Reveals Best Practices |".
  31. ^
  32. ^ Sherman, Natalie (9 June 2016). "Labor Dept: Baltimore-area Enterprise Rent-A-Car discriminated against black applicants".
  33. ^ WLOS Staff (2019-10-02). "WNC local, retired colonel Moe Davis to run for congress in North Carolina's 11th district". News 13 WLOS (ABC News).
  34. ^ "State Composite Abstract Report - Contest.pdf" (PDF). North Carolina State Board of Elections. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
  35. ^ "State Composite Abstract Report - Contest.pdf" (PDF). North Carolina State Board of Elections. Retrieved November 24, 2020.
  36. ^ "District 11, North Carolina State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement". North Carolina State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement. Retrieved November 10, 2018.
  37. ^ "ENDORSEMENTS – Moe Davis for Congress".
  38. ^ "Morris Davis | The Guardian". The Guardian.
  39. ^ Davis, Morris (November 11, 2009). "Justice and Guantanamo Bay". The Wall Street Journal – via
  40. ^ "Morris Davis | HuffPost".
  41. ^ Morris D. Davis (2015-03-28). "Guantánamo's Charade of Justice". The New York Times. p. A21. Archived from the original on 2015-03-28.
  42. ^ "Summary: Declarations Regarding the Removal of Military Commission Convening Authority Rishikof". Lawfare. March 23, 2018.
  43. ^ @ColMorrisDavis (January 8, 2020). "Weigh In: Should Trump Be Able To Block American Citizens And Veterans On Social Media?" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  44. ^ Lewis, Sally Kestin and Peter H. "Tweet storm: Moe Davis attacks with expletives, vulgarity; blames anger over Trump, GOP". The Asheville Citizen Times.
  45. ^ "Former Gitmo Prosecutor Calls Freshman GOP Rep An 'American Terrorist'".

External links[edit]