Tuesday, July 15, 2008

One Baby Step

We're getting to the rubber-meets-the-road point in the first of the military commission "trials" at Guantanamo Bay. The case against Salim Ahmed Hamdan is set to proceed next week. During a pre-trial hearing, a commission judge has ruled that Mr. Hamdan can use the "testimony" of other detainees (including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind behind 9/11) in his defense, which means that the government must provide the defense with that testimony, according to this article in today's Los Angeles Times.

Osama bin Laden's former driver can use testimony by alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and some other detained Al Qaeda operatives in his upcoming military trial at Guantanamo Bay because it might help exonerate him, a military judge said Monday. ...

At a pretrial hearing for Hamdan at the naval base Monday, prosecutors said Mohammed and four other men accused of being his co-conspirators in the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington should not be allowed to testify because they might reveal some of the U.S. government's most closely held secrets, including sources of information about Al Qaeda and ways in which terrorism suspects are interrogated.

"The detainees that they want access to hold in their heads some of the most serious national security and intelligence sources and methods that the United States has," Justice Department prosecutor Clayton Trivett said.

But Navy Capt. Keith J. Allred, the military judge hearing the case, said that Mohammed and the other men also appeared to have knowledge of events that could favor Hamdan, who has insisted for years that he was merely a driver for Bin Laden who needed the work and never engaged in, or knew about, terrorist activity.

Allred told the prosecutors in the Spartan courtroom that he saw the evidence brought forward by the defense lawyers as being "relevant and necessary and exculpatory."

"I just believe the defendant cannot have a fair trial without this evidence," Allred said.

"A fair trial": now there's a concept, one that has been steadily ignored by the government throughout all the blather about the military commissions. While the rest of the world has steadily condemned the US behavior towards the detainees in Guantanamo and the other sites and the obviously tainted procedures put into place for the show trials of the detainees, the prosecutors are still talking about their precious "sources and methods" and the "national security" as more important than justice.

What reasonable, civilized, and humane people fully understand by those terms was aptly described by a human rights organization representative present at the pretrial hearing as an observer:

Frank Kendall, a lawyer who witnessed Monday's hearing as an observer for the advocacy group Human Rights First, said in a statement that the military was trying to block Mohammed and other so-called high-value detainees from testifying in order to protect the secrecy of torture allegedly conducted in secret overseas CIA prisons after Sept. 11.

Some "sources and methods", eh?

More like some "cya" action.

Why the government even bothers to pretend at this stage is one of those mysteries I doubt we'll ever fully unravel.

This isn't justice.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

God forbid anyone should actually know what we've done to these so-called worst of the worst. God forbid we should treat them with any kind of due process, let alone justice. That would weaken us, make us more vulnerable to more terrorists, if the world knew that we had ideals and stuck to them even in dangerous times.

Sarcasm off.

4:14 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

nora, I fear that the reason for their detention has become that the WH can't afford to let them tell about what they're doing in Gitmo.

4:19 AM  

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