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Military Commission Process: November 2001 to March 2008

March 3, 2008 | Barrister Club

John D. Altenburg Jr. Major General John D. Altenburg Jr.
Of Counsel
Greenberg Traurig
Web Profile


Major General John D. Altenburg Jr. is a principal with the Washington, D.C., office of Greenberg Traurig, an  international, corporate law firm with 1700 lawyers in 29 cities in the United States, Europe, and Asia.  His practice includes contract litigation, corporate governance, investigations, and international law. 

From 2002-03, Altenburg took a leave of absence from Greenberg Traurig when the Secretary of Defense named him Appointing Authority for Military Commissions.  As Appointing Authority, he was responsible for reviewing charges and evidence against people detained in Afghanistan by the United States.  He had discretion to approve or disapprove charges for alleged law of war violations and to refer appropriate cases to trial by Military Commission. 

As Appointing Authority, Altenburg was a singular force for modifying the original 2001 Presidential Military Order and Commission procedures to comply with contemporary military jurisprudential standards and international standards. 

Before coming to Greenberg Taurig, Altenburg served 28 years as an Army lawyer.  His Military Justice and Operations Law experience includes service or legal oversight in Vietnam (1969-70, 9th Infantry Division), Special Operations (1974-78, 5th Special Forces Group), Operation Desert Storm-Kuwait/Iraq (1990-91, 1st Armored Division), Operation Restore Hope-Somalia (1992-93, XVIII Airborne Corps), Operation Uphold Democracy-Haiti (1994, Joint Task Force 180), Operations Joint Endeavor/Guard-Bosnia and Joint Guardian-Kosovo (1995-2001, Army Staff).  

From 1997 through 2001, as Deputy Judge Advocate General of the Army, he advised senior military and civilian leaders on critical legal and policy issues and directed the day to day operations of the 1,800 civilian and uniformed attorneys and 3,000 National Guard and Army Reserve attorneys providing legal services to commanders, soldiers, and civilians worldwide. 

He has lectured frequently in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and numerous U.S. law schools on topics as diverse as leadership and mentoring, trial advocacy, legal aspects of peacekeeping and combat operations, and other national security issues.  He was the U.S. Representative on the Experts Panel at the International Institute of Humanitarian Law in San Remo, Italy.

Altenburg is author of "Rhetoric or Reality? Winning the Battle of Ideas" (Barry Law Review, Fall 2006).  He co-authored "Terrorism, State Responsibility, and the Uses of Military Force"(Chicago Journal of International Law, Spring 2003).

Altenburg earned a B.A. in English and International Studies from Wayne State University, a J.D. from the University of Cincinnati College of Law, and an MMAS in  History from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.  A graduate of the National War College, his decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit (2), Bronze Star Medal (2), Master Parachutist Badge, Combat Diver’s Badge, and Special Forces Tab.

Co-sponsored by: Mentoring & More @ Moritz and Mershon Center for International Security Studies.

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