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Fired U.S. attorney David Iglesias returns to old stomping grounds at Guantanamo

By Carol Eisenberg

January 22, 2009 at 12:10pm

Former U.S. attorney David Iglesias - one of nine U.S. attorneys fired by the Bush administration in 2006 - has a new job.

Iglesias has been hired to prosecute suspected terrorists held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the Office of Military Commissions. He was reactivated as a member of the U.S. Naval Reserve JAG corps as part of a special prosecution team for Guantanamo detainees.

“It’s the most important work I’ve ever done in my 25 years as a lawyer,” Iglesias told the Associated Press Wednesday. “Our focus is laser sharp. It’s just on terrorist cases and nothing else.”

But this job, too, could be politically insecure at a time when the Obama administration is circulating a draft order to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center and review the cases of the nearly 245 inmates still held there.

Iglesias said yesterday that his cases could still go forward in federal court, military court martial or with the commission. But it remained unclear what system the Obama administration hoped to use, and Iglesias stressed he was speaking for himself, not for the Office of Military Commissions.

For Iglesias, working as a Guantanamo judge advocate is a familiar gig.

After graduating from the University of New Mexico School of Law, he became a Navy judge advocate general who defended court-martialed sailors at the Cuban naval base His involvement in a hazing case there became the basis for Tom Cruise’s character in A Few Good Men.

In 2001, after making an unexpectedly strong bid for state attorney general, Iglesias was appointed U.S. attorney for New Mexico by George W. Bush on the recommendation of former Sen. Pete Domenici.

“I think there was a belief that, because I’d run for office, because I knew Heather (Wilson) and Pete (Domenici) personally, that somehow I’d be a much more politically savvy U.S. Attorney,” he told the Albuquerque Tribune in 2007. “When I just looked at the evidence and went by the book, there was this anger that I was acting too much like a career prosecutor and not like a political appointee.”

His 2006 firing played a key role in the subsequent resignation of then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. A report by the U.S. Justice Department concluded that he was fired after Republican politicians, including Domenici, complained about his handling of voter fraud complaints and public corruption cases in New Mexico.

Iglesias was born to Baptist missionaries working on a small island off the Caribbean coast of Panama. When he was 7, his parents moved to Oklahoma, then to Gallup, where his father was a pastor. After graduating from Santa Fe High School, he attended Wheaton College and then the University of New Mexico law school.

Before taking his new position, Iglesias had been publicizing his first-hand account of his firing and practicing business law part-time in Albuquerque.

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