Susan J. Crawford

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Susan Crawford
Convening Authority of the Guantanamo Military Commissions
In office
February 7, 2007 – January 2010
Appointed byGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byJohn D. Altenburg
Succeeded byBruce MacDonald
Senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
Assumed office
September 30, 2006
Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
In office
October 1, 1999 – October 1, 2004
Preceded byWalter T. Cox III
Succeeded byH. F. Gierke III
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
In office
November 19, 1991 – September 30, 2006
Appointed byGeorge H. W. Bush
Preceded byRobinson O. Everett
Succeeded byScott W. Stucky
Inspector General of the Department of Defense
In office
November 28, 1989 – November 19, 1991
PresidentGeorge H. W. Bush
Preceded byDerek Vander Schaaf (acting)
Succeeded byDerek Vander Schaaf (acting)
Personal details
Born (1947-04-22) April 22, 1947 (age 76)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.[1][2]
SpouseRoger W. Higgins
Childrenone daughter[1]
EducationBucknell University (BA)
New England School of Law (JD)

Susan Jean Crawford[1] (born April 22, 1947)[2] is an American lawyer, who was appointed the Convening Authority for the Guantanamo military commissions, on February 7, 2007.[3] Secretary of Defense Robert Gates appointed Crawford to replace John D. Altenburg.[4]

She had previously served as judge and chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, Inspector General of the Department of Defense (appointed by George H. W. Bush), General Counsel for the Department of the Army (appointed by Ronald Reagan) and Assistant State's Attorney for Garrett County, Maryland.[5][6]


Judge on Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces[edit]

Crawford was an active judge on the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) from 1991 to 2006. She was appointed by President George H. W. Bush as a justice to the nation's highest military court in 1991 for a fifteen-year term. She served as its chief judge from 1999 to 2004. She is now a judge in senior status.

Crawford was the lone dissenter in a case involving Senator-Military Judge-Colonel Lindsey O. Graham. In 2006, by a vote of 4–1, the CAAF found unconstitutional the dual role of Lindsey O. Graham as a senator (Republican from South Carolina) and as a reserve officer sitting as a military judge on the Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals. Crawford, in dissent, contended that there was no constitutional error in Senator Graham's role, and that, even if there were, it was harmless. In the case in point, the military appellant Airman Lane had been unable to show he suffered any "actual prejudice." She also said that, if Congress thought there were a constitutional problem in Sen. Graham's service, it would have been free to take action, and it has not.

The majority's opinion relied upon the Constitution's "incompatibility clause" in Article I, " saying that "no person holding any office under the United States shall be a member of either House during his continuance in service." It also relied upon separation-of-power principles, primarily as discussed by the Supreme Court in Buckley v. Valeo (1976) and three Supreme Court precedents from the 1990s dealing with appointments to military courts. Congress, Crawford wrote, "may well desire the synergism that would result from having a member of Congress serving as a trial or appellate judge in the military justice system."[9]

Negotiated Hicks' plea bargain[edit]

Crawford is reported to have directly negotiated the plea bargain of David Hicks, an Australian linked with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, without any input from the Prosecution.[10]

Guantanamo discussion[edit]

When speaking at Bucknell University on April 27, 2007, Crawford said:

"Much of the media coverage and commentary has been negative, questioning our legal authority to hold detainees without a trial in U.S. Federal Courts," Crawford said. "Under the law of war, the detainees at Guantanamo Bay are not held pending criminal charges. While detainees may be tried for violations of the law of war, there is no obligation to so charge them."[11]

During the same presentation, Crawford said:

"One of the biggest problems at Guantanamo is that the detainees gain too much weight because we feed them so well." In response to a question as to whether she endorses the practice of extraordinary rendition and the CIA's kidnapping of foreign citizens in other countries, Crawford said: "Well, I don't think we always have the right to kidnap foreign citizens."[citation needed]

On October 10, 2007, Morris D. Davis, the Chief Prosecutor for Office of Military Commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, resigned in protest, concluding that:

... full, fair and open trials were not possible under the current system. I resigned on that day because I felt that the system had become deeply politicized and that I could no longer do my job effectively or responsibly.[12]

Davis criticized Susan Crawford as a cause of the problems in the Military Commissions process, through her mixing of convening authority and prosecutor roles and her use of closed-door hearings, which he considered unnecessary.[12] Morris called for removal of the political appointees: Susan Crawford and William J. Haynes, and return of control to uniformed career military authorities in order to restore openness and fairness to the Military Commissions process.

On August 9, 2008, William Glaberson wrote in The New York Times about Crawford's role in the recent Hamdan conviction:[13]

There were unknowns. A Pentagon official, Susan J. Crawford, has broad power over the entire tribunal process, including naming the military officers eligible to hear the case. Her title, convening authority, has no civilian equivalent. Her decisions to grant or deny financing for items like the defense's expert witness fees or defense lawyers' transportation were not explained during the trial. She has never granted an interview to a reporter.

In an interview with Bob Woodward published in The Washington Post on January 14, 2009, Crawford responded to questions about why she had not referred the case of Mohammed al Qahtani, the so-called "20th hijacker" of the September 11th attacks, to trial:[14]

We tortured Qahtani. His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case [for prosecution] .... The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent. . . . You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge [to call it torture].

Denied travel funds to Mohamed Jawad's military attorneys[edit]

Susan Crawford denies travel funds.

Mohamed Jawad was a detainee whose case was referred to the civilian court system, which dropped the charges against him and recommended that he be repatriated. His military attorneys requested funds to travel to Afghanistan to help aid in his repatriation. Crawford declined to fund their travel, since charges against him had been dropped. Eric Montalvo chose to travel to Afghanistan at his own expense to aid Jawad.


Crawford retired in January 2010.[15] In March 2010, retired Admiral Bruce MacDonald, a career Navy officer, was named as the convening authority for military commissions.[16][17]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Nominations Before the Senate Armed Services Committee, First Session, 101st Congress: Hearings Before the Committee on Armed Services, United States Senate". Vol. 101, no. 537. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. 1990. p. 998.
  2. ^ a b "Appointment of Susan J. Crawford as General Counsel of the Army". The American Presidency Project. UC Santa Barbara. December 15, 1987. Retrieved 2021-10-28.
  3. ^ "Seasoned Judge Tapped to Head Detainee Trials". Department of Defense. February 7, 2007. Archived from the original on July 10, 2008. Retrieved 2007-06-01.
  4. ^ Two, Part (December 10, 2007). "AWOL military justice". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2008-02-06. Retrieved 2007-12-10.
  5. ^ John T. Woolley, Gerhard Peters (1989-11-09). "Nomination of Susan J. Crawford To Be Inspector General of the Department of Defense". The Presidency Project. Archived from the original on 2011-05-22. Retrieved 2008-08-09.
  6. ^ "Susan J. Crawford, Class of 1969: 1989 Alumni Association "Achievement in Chosen Profession" Award". Archived from the original on 2007-07-02. Retrieved 2008-08-04.
  7. ^ "Susan Crawford" (PDF). Department of Defense. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-07-10. Retrieved 2007-06-01.
  8. ^ "Crawford to speak at Bucknell". Bucknell University. April 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-20.
  9. ^ Ruling: senator cannot be military judge, too,, September 21, 2006 (retrieved October 13, 2006)
  10. ^ "Australian Gitmo detainee sentenced". USA Today. March 30, 2007. Archived from the original on September 6, 2008. Retrieved 2007-07-20.
  11. ^ Sophia Leong (April 27, 2007). "Judge Crawford discusses detainee controversy". The Bucknellian. Archived from the original on May 21, 2011. Retrieved 2008-04-30.
  12. ^ a b "AWOL military justice". Los Angeles Times. December 10, 2007. Archived from the original on 2008-06-19. Retrieved 2007-12-10.
  13. ^ William Glaberson (2008-08-09). "A Conviction, but a System Still on Trial". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2008-12-09. Retrieved 2008-08-08.
  14. ^ Bob Woodward (2009-01-14). "Detainee Tortured, Says U.S. Official: Trial Overseer Cites 'Abusive' Methods Against 9/11 Suspect". The Washington Post. p. A01. Archived from the original on 2010-10-09. Retrieved 2009-01-14.
  15. ^ Carol Rosenberg (2010-03-25). "Obama appoints new chief for war court at Guantanamo". McClatchy News Service. Archived from the original on 2012-09-02. Retrieved 2010-04-14. Qahtani was interrogated in isolation—sometimes for up to 20 hours at a time—across a 50-day period from November 2002 to January 2003, menaced with dogs, forced to wear a bra and left naked. Crawford retired in January and quietly left.
  16. ^ Michael Isikoff (2010-03-24). "Pentagon to Name New Chief for Military Commissions in Sign That Gitmo Trials May Move Forward". Newsweek. Archived from the original on 2010-03-28. Retrieved 2010-04-14. As convening authority, MacDonald—who replaces Susan Crawford, a Bush political appointee who retired two months ago—will have the responsibility to "refer" charges against Guantanamo terror suspects to trials after receiving recommendations from military prosecutors. Such "referrals"--the equivalent of indictments—have been on hold ever since last year when the White House ordered a halt to all military commission proceedings as part of its larger review about how to close Gitmo.
  17. ^ Michael Isikoff (2010-03-26). "Military-Commission Trials Set for the Summer". Newsweek. Archived from the original on 2010-04-01. Retrieved 2010-04-14. Since then, however, Congress has passed a new law—signed by Obama—aimed at making the proceedings fairer. And last week Gates named retired Adm. Bruce MacDonald, who helped craft the new law, as the "convening authority" to oversee the commissions.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by General Counsel of the Army
Succeeded by
Preceded by Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
Succeeded by
Preceded by Convening Authority of the Guantanamo Military Commissions
Succeeded by