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Top Prosecutor At Guantanamo Military Commissions To Retire

NPR has learned that the top prosecutor at the Guantanamo Bay military commissions has asked to retire from the military after he finishes his assignment there.

Brig. Gen. Mark Martins says he hopes the decision will drain some of the politics out of the chief prosecutor's position and will provide some continuity.

"I've decided to request that this be my last assignment in the military," Martins tells NPR in an interview. "That will afford a measure of continuity of the commissions process which has had a total of seven prosecutors. It will enable me to stay at least until November 2014. In order to do that I needed to forego consideration by a promotions board and request that this be my final assignment in uniform. We need to have continuity in my job."

He said the move will also allow him to make decisions without any taint of politics. Whatever decisions he makes while chief prosecutor could not be construed as being motivated by how it might affect his future military career.

"To the extent that signal is important to some, then it will be valuable," he said.

Martins is expected to make the decision public this week.

General Mark Martins has been in Iraq and Afghanistan much of the last decade. He was a chief legal advisor to General David Petraeus during the surge of US troops in Iraq and then served as the head of the Rule of Law Field Force, a team that was charged with transforming lawless areas in Afghanistan into law abiding ones. He has been working on reforming the military commission system since 2009. He was part of the detention policy task force which studied detention issues at Guantanamo and helped draft the 2009 Military Commissions Act.

Martins' decision comes just weeks before the expected start of the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men accused of plotting the 911 attacks.

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Dina Temple-Raston is a correspondent on NPR's Investigations team focusing on breaking news stories and national security, technology and social justice.