Daily Herald
What Gitmo lawyer would have discussed
By Lenore T. Adkins | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 12/3/2009 4:55 PM | Updated: 12/3/2009 8:02 PM

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The lawyer who was to talk Thursday at McHenry County College about what he's learned defending 17 detainees at Guantanamo Bay wants to explain what he would have talked about, if the program had gone on as scheduled.

Marc Falkoff, also a law professor at Northern Illinois University, was due to speak at the school. But the college postponed the event, officials said, because they were not prepared for the hundreds of people expected to showed up - some in protest.

Besides the subject matter, many were also upset that the lecture, organized months ago by the Student Peace Action Network, was being held the same night as a wake for U.S. Army Sgt. Jason McCloud, a Crystal Lake soldier killed just before Thanksgiving during his second tour in Afghanistan.

The school has vowed to reschedule the talk for January or February.

"We are all for educational discussion - we think it's important to our students," said Tony Miksa, MCC's vice president of academic and student affairs. "In no way were we trying to stifle academic discussion."

Falkoff said he's received threatening phone calls about the lecture, but says he will honor any appointment the school sets up - as long as there is enough security.

But he also says some of the points he had hoped to make this week may not be as timely early next year, since Illinois lawmakers are currently debating a White House plan to transfer some Guantanamo Bay prisoners to Illinois.

By the time he speaks, they may have already decided on an outcome, he said.

"It's right now that some of these issues are of prime importance," Falkoff said.

Falkoff, editor of "Poems from Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak," says that among other things he would have discussed:

• The three Supreme Court cases he and his colleagues he won in the last five years that reaffirmed that the government cannot take away prisoners' constitutional rights to court appearances;

• How the prisoners, who were denied the use of pen and paper, managed to write the poetry featured in the book. He also would have talked about their writings, but in no way would it have become a poetry reading;

• That many people being held at Guantanamo might be innocent because most of them weren't picked up on battlefields or secured by American troops. He would have cited a military study that shows 86 percent of the people apprehended were wearing civilian clothes and were seized by Pakistani security forces at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border;

• That American troops captured 1,196 men during the Gulf War, but had to let 886 go after status hearings determined the troops committed errors in apprehending them. "We made mistakes 74 percent of the time," he said. By contrast during the war in Afghanistan, Falkoff says, there have been no hearings to rule out potential errors made by Pakistani soldiers.

"There's a lot that I would have talked about and I would have been happy to listen to questions from skeptics and we could have had a conversation," he said. "But instead, none of that is going to be heard."