WASHINGTON – The Pentagon said Friday that the chief war crimes prosecutor for the occasional military commissions at Guantanamo Bay had abruptly resigned in a dispute over his independence.

No successor was immediately named for Air Force Col. Morris Davis, who was known for his colorful descriptions of suspected war criminals who are being held at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba.

At one point, he described detainees who challenged the trial system to the U.S. Supreme Court as vampires afraid of the harsh sunlight of American justice.

“Remember if you dragged Dracula out into the sunlight, he melted? Well, that’s kind of the way it is trying to drag a detainee into the courtroom,” he told reporters at Guantanamo in March 2006. “But their day is coming.”

Davis stepped down on Thursday in a dispute over whether Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, legal advisor to the administrator overseeing the trials, has the power to supervise aspects of the prosecution.

Davis was told Thursday that Hartmann did have access to “attorneys, documents and other relevant information in the office of the chief prosecutor.”

Whitman said Davis, a career Air Force officer, had not resigned his U.S. military commission but sought “reassignment” to another post.

Davis declined to speak to The Miami Herald on Friday, saying he was forbidden to speak to media by both Hartmann and the general’s boss, the so-called convening authority for military commissions, Susan Crawford.

Davis had said he hoped to prosecute as many as 80 of the detainees at Guantanamo, which today number about 330, among them Khalid Sheik Mohammed, alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Whitman said the absence of a chief prosecutor should not stall plans for a mid-November arraignment of the lone active commission case – Canadian captive Omar Khadr, 21, accused of the 2002 killing of a U.S. Army medic in Afghanistan.

Davis was the second prosecutor to lead the beleaguered commissions system, which the Pentagon created after the Sept. 11 attacks.

There have been no trials so far, partly because the commissions were shut down by the federal courts, ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court and reauthorized by Congress.

As legal advisor, Hartmann has a sweeping supervisory role in the trials – from running an office that reviewed charges to oversee an expeditionary-style $10 million tent city being built to stage them.

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