Monday, August 04, 2008

The First Trial

The first military commission trial at Guantanamo Bay goes to the jury today. It won't make much difference whether Salim Ahmed Hamdan is found innocent or guilty, however. The administration has made it clear that even if he is found innocent, he won't be released because he is "an enemy combatant" and would be a security risk. After the trial, he will be moved to separate quarters, although Pentagon officials aren't sure just where or what that would involve, only that it won't involve solitary confinement.

Today's Los Angeles Times has a deeply troubling article on Hamdan's trial and what it portends for the next round of commission trials.

The war crimes case against Salim Ahmed Hamdan today goes to a jury of his enemies, hand-selected by the Pentagon official who charged him on behalf of a president who has ordered him imprisoned even if acquitted. ...

Hamdan's defense was encumbered by "protective orders" that prohibited even the mention of the CIA or its handling of Hamdan during a month in late 2001 when the defendant disappeared into "a black hole" in Afghanistan, said the tribunal's deputy defense chief, Michael J. Berrigan. He called the two-week trial an "obscenity." ...

Citing national security concerns, none of the agents nor the reports from CIA interrogations of Hamdan were available to the defense. Four prosecution witnesses testified anonymously, and two Army special forces officers called by the defense were questioned behind closed doors, with no media or independent observers allowed.

Last Tuesday, I suggested that the judge in the trial, Captain Keith Allred, seemed to be at least nodding toward the concept of fairness and openness. Clearly I was wrong. He apparently bought into the government's insistence that testimony from those who obtained "coerced" information would compromise national security in that it would reveal "sources and methods." We know the methods, and torture was at the top of the list. We also know the sources, other captives soon to be charged and tried. What little testimony the defense was allowed to produce was done behind closed doors.

So Mr. Hamdan got his trial, and calling this sham a dog-and-pony show would be to dignify those proceedings, as an ACLU staff lawyer pointed out:

"This trial has been an embarrassment. It's embarrassing that the United States would convene the first tribunal since World War II to prosecute such a lowly and marginal figure, and it's embarrassing that this system has been devised to allow prosecution of the alleged crimes of the detainees while covering up the crimes committed against them," said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. ...

"From Hamdan's perspective, this is a Potemkin proceeding," Wizner said, a dry run to provide assurance that no barriers arise to the introduction of coerced evidence or hearsay in future trials.
[Emphasis added]

So, we can expect more of these Potemkin proceedings, certainly at Guantanamo Bay and perhaps even on the mainland. I mean, what's to stop them?

I am ashamed, deeply ashamed of this country.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somewhere the ghost of Hermann Goering is laughing at us.

4:09 AM  

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