Retired general to address legal and policy dilemmas of Guantanamo

Major General John D. Altenburg Jr., this year's Omar N. Bradley joint chair in strategic leadership, will discuss the ethical, policy and legal dilemmas regarding detention, rendition, interrogation and the use of military commissions in the war against al-Qaeda and other terrorists on March 30. This interdisciplinary event will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Lewis Katz Hall auditorium at the Law School in Carlisle, and will be simulcast to room 116 of the Lewis Katz Building on Penn State's University Park campus. The event is open to the public.

Altenburg, who has criticized the George W. Bush Administration for failing to explain to the American public its rationale regarding the legal basis for detentions and military commissions, said that Guantanamo is grossly misunderstood. “Our country thrives on criticism. We must have critics. But the Bush administration allowed the critics to define the terms of the debate and those terms were domestic criminal law. They had the public thinking TV show 'Law and Order' -- Fourth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, right to speedy trial -- that’s the wrong paradigm. The analytical structure should have included international law, especially the Law of Armed Conflict.”

Following opening remarks, Altenburg will respond to questions posed by two experts, Jeffrey D. McCausland, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council and retired U.S. Army Colonel, and Harold L. Pohlman, the A. Lee Fritschler professor of public policy and executive director of the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues at Dickinson College. After fielding questions from the interviewers, Altenburg will take questions from the audience.

“Guantanamo inspires legal debate about the constitutionality of the U.S. government’s actions under the separation of powers and due process doctrines, and policy debate, both domestic and foreign, about counter-terrorism efforts. It is a magnet for these topics and an ideal subject to encourage civilian-military dialogue, the primary intention of the Bradley Chair,” said Amy Gaudion, assistant dean for academic affairs at the Law School.

Altenburg was recalled from retirement to serve as Appointing Authority for the Military Commissions responsible for full and fair trials for some of the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. Altenburg’s responsibilities included resolving administrative and legal questions posed by the prosecution, defense, and Commission members.

The event is co-sponsored by the Law School, the Penn State School of International Affairs, Dickinson College and the United States Army War College.

The Omar Bradley Chair is a joint initiative of the United States Army War College, Dickinson College, and Penn State Law to advance the study of strategic leadership and enhance civilian-military dialogue by offering distinguished individuals the opportunity to contribute to the educational and research activities of the three institutions.

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Last Updated March 21, 2011