[JURIST] John Altenburg [official profile, PDF], appointed [DOD press release, PDF] in 2003 by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to oversee the military commissions [official website; JURIST news archive] trying terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], has resigned his post as Appointing Authority [official materials] and returned to full-time civilian legal practice, law firm Greenberg Traurig announced [press release] Thursday. The move comes just weeks after Altenburg submitted a draft manual on the implementation of the new Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA) [PDF text; JURIST news archive] to top Pentagon and Department of Justice officials. The MCA set the commissions on a new and theoretically more solid legal footing after the US Supreme Court ruled in June that, as initially constituted by the President, they lacked proper legal authorization [JURIST report].
Under Military Commission Order No. 1 [text] of March 21, 2002, the Appointing Authority is responsible [DOD Directive 5105.70] for approving charges, appointing military commission members, approving plea agreements, deciding whether to open or close trials to media, and determining the possible applicability of the death penalty. Officially retired from the Army in 2002, Altenburg served as Appointing Authority in a civilian capacity. No replacement for him has yet been announced. The Wall Street Journal has more.