Hamdan Gets 5.5 Years (Plus Time Served)

by matttbastard

Carol Rosenberg of The Miami Herald reports from beautiful, sunny Guantanamo Bay:

In a stunning rebuke, a six-member U.S. military jury Thursday ignored a Pentagon prosecutor’s plea for a 30 years-plus term and ordered Osama bin Laden’s driver to 66 months in prison.

With credit for time served given by the judge, that means Salim Hamdan, 40, of Yemen will be sent back to the general detainee population of Camp Delta by January, and eligible to return home.

[…]

In court, Hamdan’s longest-serving defense attorney, retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Swift, clasped the more diminutive Yemeni in a bearhug and both men openly wept.

Afterwards, Swift vowed that lawyers would work to send Hamdan home to his wife and two daughters by January. Lawyers were prepared to go straight to federal court with a habeas corpus petition, he said, were the U.S. to seek to continue to hold the driver after the sentence were done.

”What happened — despite the system — is justice,” said Swift.

[…]

After the jury’s verdict, the judge turned to the convicted terrorist and said:

“I wish you godspeed, Mr. Hamdan. I hope the day comes when you return to your wife and your daughters and your country.”

”God willing,” the man in traditional Yemeni robe and head scarf replied in Arabic, interrupting.

The judge continued: “And I hope that you are able to be a father, and a provider, and a husband in the best sense of the word.”

Then the detainee said it again: “Inshallah.”

Allred replied in Arabic. “Inshallah.”

Touching. I’m sure the LGF set is already calling for the head of ‘Judge Dhimmi.’ But, despite the Spielberg-esque conclusion to the first U.S. military tribunal since WWII, happy endings aren’t necessarily in the script, as noted by the Washington Post:

It is unclear what will happen to Hamdan after he finishes serving his remaining time, because military prosecutors and military commissions officials have argued they have the ability to hold enemy combatants indefinitely, until the end of hostilities in the so-called war on terror.

Warren Richey of the CS Monitor quotes Linda Malone, director of the Human Rights and National Security Law Program at William and Mary Law School:

“The overriding problem is that the Bush administration has said that [Hamdan] will be held until the war on terror is over, regardless of what sentence he gets,” Professor Malone says. “It is almost Kafkaesque that regardless of what the sentence might be and whatever credit he is given [for his prior detention], they are saying they are going to hold him until the war ends – and everyone knows that is virtually limitless.

I truly hope any future habeas corpus petition proves successful. But to call this outcome “justice”? With all due respect, Lt. Cmdr. Swift, that word doesn’t mean what it used to mean.

Updated: Next on the ‘worst of the worst’ list: Bin Laden’s personal stylist *cough*.

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Hamdan Guilty of ‘Material Support’, Acquitted of More Serious Conspiracy Charges

by matttbastard

Hey, it only took seven years, but justice has finally been perverted served:

Salim Hamdan was found guilty of providing material support for terrorism at a Guantanamo military commission today, but acquitted of the more serious charge of conspiracy to commit terrorist attacks and murder American soldiers. So let me get this straight: After seven years and numerous court challenges including two Supreme Court rulings, the Bush administration finally stumbled its way to its first conviction in a military commission for a crime that is routinely handled in federal courts. Is this is the best they can do?

Hamdan was Osama bin Laden’s driver, not Osama bin Laden. He never denied that he was bin Laden’s driver. It would have been an open and shut case of material support for terrorism in federal court. Hamdan could have been securely locked away years ago, but the Bush administration chose to pursue the risky path of an untested military commissions system.

Now, come on. I was under the impression Hamdan was a bloodthirsty terrorist (the worst of the worst!!1one) hell-bent on destroying the pillars of Western civilization. His conviction means the world is now a safer place, right?

The worst aspect of this whole episode is that the Bush administration has completely devalued the concept of a war criminal. War crimes should be reserved for the most serious offenses and war crimes trials are extraordinary. Charles Taylor is a war criminal. Radovan Karazdic is a war criminal. Salim Hamdan is a chauffer. He is clearly guilty of the crime of material support for terrorism. But now he has been elevated to the status of warrior, legitimizing al Qaeda terrorists’ belief that they are waging a holy war against the United States and our allies.

Well. I’m comfortable declaring this little long term experiment in post-9/11 homeland insecurity an unqualified success. Heck of a motherfucking job.

Related: Statement on the Hamdan decision from the Center for Constitutional Rights:

In response to the hand-picked military jury’s decision in the Military Commission against Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Shayana Kadidal, Senior Managing Attorney of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative, issued the following statement:

“Hamdan’s trial violated two of the most fundamental criminal justice principles accepted by all developed nations: the prohibition on the use of coerced evidence and the prohibition on retroactive criminal laws.

The trial will not create finality – the decision to keep these cases out of the ordinary criminal courts will produce years of appeals over novel legal issues raised by the untested military commissions system. Even after those appeals are finished, the process will never be seen as legitimate by the world. This case was the first trial run of the commissions system, and the decision proves nothing except that the system itself should be scrapped. Terrorism-related crimes should be tried in the time-tested domestic criminal justice system, a system whose rules have been designed over the centuries with one goal: to seek out the truth.

CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo for the last six years – sending the first ever habeas attorney to the base and sending the first attorney to meet with a former CIA “ghost detainee” there. CCR has been responsible for organizing and coordinating more than 500 pro bono lawyers across the country in order to represent the men at Guantanamo, ensuring that nearly all have the option of legal representation. CCR represented the detainees with co-counsel in the most recent argument before the Supreme Court. For more information or to read the amicus brief filed by CCR in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, click here.

and the ACLU:

After a trial filled with overwhelming constitutional and procedural flaws, a jury of military officers today found Salim Hamdan guilty of providing material support for terrorism. The American Civil Liberties Union has been at Guantánamo Bay observing the Hamdan proceedings, which lacked the fundamental legal safeguards found in traditional U.S. courts or military courts governed by the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The following can be attributed to ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero:

“Any verdict resulting from such a flawed system is a betrayal of American values. The rules for the Guantánamo military commissions are so flawed that justice could never be served. From start to finish, this has been a monumental debacle of American justice. The judgment against Hamdan undoubtedly will be challenged in legitimate courts, but there is no appeal from the judgment of future generations. This system was devised to permit the prosecution of alleged wrongdoing by detainees, while continuing to cover up the wrongdoing by government interrogators. Trials that are shrouded in secrecy and tainted by coercion are the very antithesis of American justice.”

The following can be attributed to ACLU National Security Project staff attorney Ben Wizner, who observed the trial:

“In the strange world of Guantánamo justice, even if Hamdan had been acquitted on all charges, he would have been detained indefinitely. Nowhere else in the U.S. justice system can someone be held for life regardless of whether he is convicted or acquitted of a crime. Today’s outcome represents nothing more than an illusion of justice. It is time to shut down these commissions and put an end to this shameful chapter in American history.”

As part of its John Adams Project, a partnership with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the ACLU is sponsoring expert civilian counsel to assist the under-resourced military defense counsel of some Guantánamo detainees.

More information on the John Adams Project is available online at: www.aclu.org/johnadams

(both statements h/t FDL).

Also see this trip down memory lane from Think Progress: “[t]oday marks seven years since the day President Bush received a President’s Daily Brief entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” (See the memo here.)”

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On Kangaroo Courts and Dry Runs: Hamdan is Ready For His Close-Up

by matttbastard

Tomorrow marks an historic occasion: the first military commission trial of a so-called ‘enemy combatant’ in the War on Terror is scheduled to take place at beautiful, sunny Guantanamo. And Osama Bin Laden’s chauffeur–a prime example of “the worst of the worst”, IMO–is the lucky duck who’s been given the opportunity to see post-9/11 justice in action:

When Salim Ahmed Hamdan, accused of ferrying weapons for al-Qaeda, enters courtroom 01-A in a former aircraft operations center, he will face court proceedings unlike any the United States has seen in decades. They will unfold before a military commission — the first since the end of World War II — with a jury of uniformed officers and rules that give great deference to the prosecution. Evidence obtained from “cruel” and “inhuman” interrogation methods is admissible in certain circumstances, as is hearsay evidence.

Unlike a civilian trial, even if the defendant is acquitted of conspiracy and material support of terrorism charges, he probably will not be released. Hamdan has been designated an “enemy combatant” by the military, a status that prosecutors said would be unchanged by an acquittal even if international pressure mounts for his release.

According to Wikipedia,

Kangaroo courts are judicial proceedings that deny due process in the name of expediency. Such rights include the right to summon witnesses, the right of cross-examination, the right not to incriminate oneself, the right not to be tried on secret evidence, the right to control one’s own defense, the right to exclude evidence that is improperly obtained, irrelevant or inherently inadmissible (e.g. hearsay), the right to exclude judges or jurors on the grounds of partiality or conflict of interest, and the right of appeal. The outcome of a trial by “kangaroo court” is essentially determined in advance, usually for the purpose of providing a conviction, either by going through the motions of manipulated procedure or by allowing no defense at all.

Ok, so if “justice” (such a September 10th concept, that) isn’t the end result that is being sought by going the military commission route, then why waste precious time (and taxpayer dollars)?

[T]he proceedings are…something of a dry run, a way to test the long-delayed military system on an alleged low-level al-Qaeda foot soldier so it is primed for the self-confessed terrorist leaders to come. In line behind Hamdan at Guantanamo is Khalid Sheik Mohammed, self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and other accused planners.

“It’s the first contested war crimes trial since World War II, so it’s important,” Col. Lawrence Morris, the military commissions’ chief prosecutor, said recently. “You’re looking at it primarily and appropriately as bringing Mr. Hamdan to justice, but we’re also well aware that . . . it provides the first opportunity to test and validate this mechanism.”

Ah, so, in essence, Mr. Hamdan is, in fact, a pioneer, blazing a trail for future generations to come! Well, that more-than-pertinent fact certainly kills any unpatriotic misgivings that whole predetermined outcome thing might engender. Huh–wonder how he feels about serving such a prominent role in world history?

“There is no such thing as justice here… . America tells the world about freedom and justice… . Give me a just court … give me my human rights.”

Geez, bloodthirsty America-hatin’ terrorists sure are a hard lot to please, eh?

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‘Top Down Quality Control’

by matttbastard

From the ACLU:

Mehboob Ahmad is a 35-year-old citizen of Afghanistan. Ahmad was detained by U.S. military for approximately five months from June to November 2003. He was held at various locations in Afghanistan, including the Gardez firebase and the Bagram Air Base. During his detention, Ahmad was tortured and subjected to otherwise cruel and degrading treatment by U.S. military personnel.

More than a year since his release, Ahmad still suffers from leg pain and sometimes cannot move his limbs when he awakes, as a result of the physical abuse and torture he suffered while in U.S. custody. Painful techniques used on Ahmad included hanging him upside-down from the ceiling with a chain, and repeatedly pushing and kicking him while he knelt on a wooden pole with his hands chained to the ceiling.

Ahmad was also sexually and psychologically traumatized by U.S. military personnel. He was forced to strip and stay naked for long periods of time, was probed anally and was threatened with a snarling and barking dog at close range. Interrogators taunted Ahmad by directing insults at his mother and sister and implying that soldiers would rape his wife. He was also threatened with transport to Guantánamo.

Like other detainees, Ahmad was subjected to extreme sensory deprivation and isolation. He was forced to wear sound-blocking earphones; he was forced to wear black, opaque goggles almost continuously for more than a month, and was not allowed to speak with other detainees for the five months that he was in custody.

FlashbackJane Mayer on the CIA’s secret interrogation program:

As the C.I.A. captured and interrogated other Al Qaeda figures, it established a protocol of psychological coercion. The program tied together many strands of the agency’s secret history of Cold War-era experiments in behavioral science. (In June, the C.I.A. declassified long-held secret documents known as the Family Jewels, which shed light on C.I.A. drug experiments on rats and monkeys, and on the infamous case of Frank R. Olson, an agency employee who leaped to his death from a hotel window in 1953, nine days after he was unwittingly drugged with LSD.) The C.I.A.’s most useful research focussed on the surprisingly powerful effects of psychological manipulations, such as extreme sensory deprivation. According to Alfred McCoy, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, who has written a history of the C.I.A.’s experiments in coercing subjects, the agency learned that “if subjects are confined without light, odors, sound, or any fixed references of time and place, very deep breakdowns can be provoked.”

Agency scientists found that in just a few hours some subjects suspended in water tanks—or confined in isolated rooms wearing blacked-out goggles and earmuffs—regressed to semi-psychotic states. Moreover, McCoy said, detainees become so desperate for human interaction that “they bond with the interrogator like a father, or like a drowning man having a lifesaver thrown at him. If you deprive people of all their senses, they’ll turn to you like their daddy.” McCoy added that “after the Cold War we put away those tools. There was bipartisan reform. We backed away from those dark days. Then, under the pressure of the war on terror, they didn’t just bring back the old psychological techniques—they perfected them.”

The C.I.A.’s interrogation program is remarkable for its mechanistic aura. “It’s one of the most sophisticated, refined programs of torture ever,” an outside expert familiar with the protocol said. “At every stage, there was a rigid attention to detail. Procedure was adhered to almost to the letter. There was top-down quality control, and such a set routine that you get to the point where you know what each detainee is going to say, because you’ve heard it before. It was almost automated. People were utterly dehumanized. People fell apart. It was the intentional and systematic infliction of great suffering masquerading as a legal process. It is just chilling.”

[…]

Among the few C.I.A. officials who knew the details of the detention and interrogation program, there was a tense debate about where to draw the line in terms of treatment. John Brennan, [former CIA director George] Tenet’s former chief of staff, said, “It all comes down to individual moral barometers.” Waterboarding, in particular, troubled many officials, from both a moral and a legal perspective. Until 2002, when Bush Administration lawyers asserted that waterboarding was a permissible interrogation technique for “enemy combatants,” it was classified as a form of torture, and treated as a serious criminal offense. American soldiers were court-martialled for waterboarding captives as recently as the Vietnam War.

Yeah, but will any of it lead to organ failure? Survey says: “We do not torture.”

Related: Frontline on “The Torture Question”; Dan Froomkin on the implications of statements regarding the CIA’s secret interrogation program made by the president during the now-infamous ABC interview:

If you consider what the government did to be torture, which is a crime according to U.S. and international law, Bush’s statement shifts his role from being an accessory after the fact to being part of a conspiracy to commit.

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