Military Wiki
Peter E. Brownback III
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Rank Colonel
Unit 173rd Brigade
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Other work Presiding Officer

Peter E. Brownback III is a retired military officer and lawyer.[1] He was appointed to be a Presiding Officer on the Guantanamo military commissions, by retired general John D. Altenburg.

Brownback is also a combat veteran who served two tours in Vietnam. The first as part of the 173rd Brigade and later as a member of the US Special Forces. He was the honour graduate of his special forces course that he completed in 1972. The Washington Post reported: "...that Brownback and Altenburg have known each other since 1977, that Brownback's wife worked for Altenburg, and that Altenburg hosted Brownback's retirement party in 1999."[2]

Defense attorneys challenged the bias of five of the six presiding officers, including Brownback.[3] Three officers were removed by Altenburg, but Brownback was allowed to remain. Brownback was the only officer appointed to the first commission who had any legal training.

Dismissed charges against Omar Khadr

On June 4, 2007, in a move the BBC described as a "stunning blow" to the Bush Presidency's detainee policy, Brownback dismissed all charges against Canadian youth Omar Khadr.[4]

In the Summer of 2006 the United States Supreme Court overturned the then current version of the Guantanamo military commission on constitutional grounds.[4] The Supreme Court had ruled that the Bush Presidency lacked the constitutional authority to institute military commissions. The Supreme Court however, did rule that the United States Congress did have the constitutional authority to set up military commissions.

In the fall of 2006 the Congress passed the Military Commissions Act, which authorized military commissions similar to those the Supreme Court overturned, to try "unlawful enemy combatants".[4]

However, Brownback and Captain Keith J. Allred, ruled that since Khadr and Salim Ahmed Hamdan's Combatant Status Review Tribunals had not determined that they were "unlawful enemy combatants", but merely "enemy combatants", the commissions lacked jurisdiction to try them.[4][5]

None of the remaining Guantanamo captives have had a "competent tribunal", like the AR-190-8 Tribunal, make a determination as to whether they broke any of the laws of war that would strip them of the protections of Geneva Conventions Prisoner of War status.[4]

November 2007 Guantanamo Military Commission hearings

An appeal court determined that the Presidents of Military Commissions themselves had the authority to determine whether the captives were lawful combatants.[6][7] Brownback reconvened Khadr's proceedings on Thursday November 8, 2007. Before Brownback made his determination as to whether Khadr was an unlawful combatant lawyers were allowed to challenge Brownback over whether he was an appropriate person to sit as Khadr's judge. When one of Khadr's lawyers had asked his whether he had said he had "taken a lot of heat" for his June ruling he acknowledged he had. But he ruled that he was sufficiently independent to serve as a neutral judge.

Brownback postponed making a ruling on whether Khadr was a lawful or unlawful combatant, giving attorneys more time for preparation.[8] The next two sessions were scheduled for December 7, 2007 and January 13, 2008.


On May 29, 2008 a new officer was appointed to replace Brownback.[9][9][10][11][12][13][14][15]


  1. Toni Locy (August 24, 2004). "Guantanamo hearings start today". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-06-07. 
  2. John Mintz (September 16, 2004). "Presiding Officer At Guantanamo Faces Questions". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-06-07. 
  3. Three Guantanamo panelists "dismissed over bias allegations". USA Today. August 21, 2004. Three Guantanamo panelists. Retrieved 2007-06-07. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 sergeant Sara Wood (June 4, 2007). "Charges Dismissed Against Canadian at Guantanamo". Department of Defense. Retrieved 2007-06-07. 
  5. sergeant Sara Wood (June 4, 2007). "Judge Dismisses Charges Against Second Guantanamo Detainee". Department of Defense. Retrieved 2007-06-07. 
  6. Jane Sutton (November 8, 2007). "Guantanamo judge says he took "heat" from Pentagon". Reuters. Retrieved 2007-11-08. 
  7. "Trial of Canadian Guantanamo detainee gets go-ahead". Armed Forces Press. November 8, 2007. Archived from the original on 2011-05-20. Retrieved 2007-11-08. 
  8. "Guantanamo judge postpones question of trial eligibility for Canadian detainee". PR Inside. November 8, 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-18. [dead link]
  9. 9.0 9.1 Jane Sutton (May 29, 2008). "Guantanamo judge dismissed in Canadian's case". Reuters. Retrieved 2008-05-29.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Reuters20080529" defined multiple times with different content
  10. Michael Melia (May 29, 2008). "Gitmo judge removed from Canadian's case". Miami Herald. Retrieved 2008-05-29. [dead link]
  11. Omar El Akkad (May 29, 2008). "Khadr judge at Guantanamo Bay relieved of duties". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 
  12. Steven Edwards (May 29, 2008). "Pentagon fires Khadr judge: Col. Peter Brownback replaced after chastising prosecution". National Post. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 
  13. Michael Melia (May 29, 2008). "Gitmo judge removed from Canadian's case". Kansas City Star. Retrieved 2008-05-29. [dead link]
  14. "Khadr judge fired, says his military lawyer". CBC News. May 29, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 
  15. "U.S. military dumps judge in Khadr terrorism case in surprise move". Canadian Press. May 29, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-29. 

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