Morris Davis

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Colonel Morris Davis

Colonel Morris D. Davis (born July 31, 1958) is a United States Air Force officer and lawyer, was appointed the third Chief Prosecutor of the Guantanamo military commissions, where he served from September 2005 until October 2007.[1] He resigned from the position due to objecting to the appointment of William J. Haynes, II, former General Counsel of the Department of Defense, as Presiding Officer of the commissions. He retired from active duty in October 2008.

Military career[edit]

Morris Davis's military career[2]
date rank post
1983–1988 Lieutenant/Captain Eastern Space and Missile Center, Patrick Air Force Base
1989–1991 Captain/Major Bolling Air Force Base
1991–1992 Major student, The Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School, U.S. Army
1992–1995 Major instructor, Air Force Judge Advocate General School
1995–1997 Lieutenant Colonel Staff Judge Advocate, Columbus Air Force Base
1997–2000 Lieutenant Colonel Staff Judge Advocate, Dyess Air Force Base
2000–2003 Lieutenant Colonel/Colonel Deputy Commandant, Air Force Judge Advocate General School
2003–2005 Colonel Director, Air Force Legal Information Services, Air Force Legal Services Agency
January 2005-
September 2005
Colonel Staff Judge Advocate F.E. Warren Air Force Base
September 2005-
October 2007
Colonel Chief Prosecutor, Guantanamo military commissions


Morris Davis's educational career[2]
year degree
1980 Bachelor of science in criminal justice, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina
1983 Juris doctorate, North Carolina Central University School of Law, Durham, North Carolina
1992 Master of laws in military law (concentration in government procurement law), The Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School, Charlottesville, Virginia
1992 Master of laws in government procurement law, The National Law Center, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.


Davis has received the following awards and recognition.[2]

Guantanamo service[edit]

Unlike his predecessors, Fred Borch and Robert L. Swann, Davis has been a visible public figure.[1][3][4][5][6] His statements have triggered controversy.[7][8]

Comments on the character of the suspects and their attorneys[edit]

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:[9]

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:[5]

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.

As Candace Gorman, a defense attorney representing a Guantanamo detainee, noted, 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.[10]

In March 2007, Davis challenged Major Michael Mori, the military defense counsel assigned to Hicks' case, by threatening him with prosecution for violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He claimed that Mori had acted improperly in criticizing the military commissions while in Australia gathering evidence for the defense.[6][10][11][12] Mori responded angrily, "Are they trying to intimidate me?"[6]

Col. Dwight Sullivan, the Chief Defense Counsel for the military commissions, said that Major Mori's behavior as defense counsel was "absolutely proper."[6] 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."[6]

"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.[3] 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.[13]

Davis called the Supreme Court's intention to review the MCA "meddling": [14]

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."[15] He also charged that there was meddling from the Pentagon in cases, and claimed this presented serious conflicts of interest.[16]

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".[17] Since his resignation, Davis has frequently spoken out against the Commissions.[18]

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.[15]

Post-military career[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.[19] 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.[20] 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."[20]

During his post-military career Davis has published numerous op-eds and other criticisms of the Guantanamo Military Commission process.[21] On March 27, 2015, after the most recent Convening Authority for the military commissions was fired after less than a year on the job, 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.

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 "Biography: Colonel Morris D. Davis" (PDF). Department of Defense. Retrieved 2007-06-28.
  3. ^ a b 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". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-06-26. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "NyTimes20070626" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  4. ^ "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.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ a b c d e Bonner, Raymond (March 5, 2007). "Terror Case Prosecutor Assails Defense Lawyer". The New York Times. Retrieved May 13, 2010.
  7. ^ "All Is Not Well at Guantánamo (6 Letters)". New York Times. June 27, 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-28.
  8. ^ "Guantánamo and U.S. justice". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 2007-06-28.
  9. ^ "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.
  10. ^ a b H. Candace Gorman (March 5, 2007). "Cully's Mentor MOE and His Six Point Plan". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2007-06-28.
  11. ^ H. Candace Gorman (May 22, 2007). "Is There a Larry Lurking in the Bushies?". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2007-06-28.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ James Vicini (June 29, 2007). "Court to hear Guantanamo prisoners appeals". Washington Post. Archived from the original on November 2, 2012. Retrieved 2007-06-29.
  15. ^ a b Melia, Michael. Toronto Star, "Ex-Gitmo prosecutor charges Pentagon interference", April 29, 2008
  16. ^ Josh White (October 20, 2007). "Ex-Prosecutor Alleges Pentagon Plays Politics". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-10-20.
  17. ^ White, Josh, "Colonel Says Speaking Out Cost A Medal", Washington Post, May 29, 2008, pg 9.
  18. ^ Amy Goodman (2008-07-16). "Fmr. Chief Guantanamo Prosecutor Says Military Commissions "Not Justice"". Democracy Now. Archived from the original on 2008-07-18. Retrieved 2008-07-18.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ 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". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on 2009-11-12.
  21. ^ Morris D. Davis (2015-03-28). "Guantánamo's Charade of Justice". New York Times. p. A21. Archived from the original on 2015-03-28.

External links[edit]