US Military Reneges on al-Qosi’s Plea Agreement

When Ibrahim al-Qosi agreed to a plea deal with the government, the original deal was that he’d spend a secret two year sentence (rather than the 14 year sentence announced to the public) in communal quarters. At the last minute, the judge in the case learned there’s no way to do that at Gitmo, though she did recommend that he serve his time in communal quarters.

Well, guess what? After 60 days since then of living communally, the military has moved him to isolation, having not found a way to accommodate the Convening Authority’s recommendations.

The convicted Osama bin Laden’s former cook who pleaded guilty to material support to terrorism was moved from a communal living camp in Guantanamo to live in isolation, in disregard for recommendations of the Military Commission’s Convening Authority and to his plea deal, sources told Al Arabiya.


“As has been the practice with previous detainees convicted by a Military Commission and serving punitive sentences, al-Qosi is no longer housed with detainees held solely as a function of the law of war,” said Pentagon spokeswoman Maj. Tanya Bradsher.


Al-Qosi was left in camp 4 as a result of a 60-day sentence deferment period that expired on Sunday and that was requested by the Convening Authority and in anticipation of a possible review of Pentagon rules

Moving al-Qosi does not directly breach the plea agreement but undermines recommendations of the Convening Authority requiring communal living for Al-Qosi.

Al-Arabiya’s Muna Shikaki notes that this will make it a lot harder for the Administration to craft any more plea deals. Why plead if it means conditions will get worse and if you can’t really trust the terms of the deal?

But I’m just as curious what this means for al-Qosi’s Double Secret sentence: the two years versus the fourteen years. Al-Qosi has no leverage over the government at this point. If they’re not going to make an effort to keep him in communal quarters, what kind of guarantee does he have they’ll let him go in two years?

Obama Administration Tries to Get Out of Its Khadr Problem

Add this to the list of things I might laugh about if it weren’t so damned sad and awful. The Administration has now realized trying a Canadian accused of murder for killing someone in an active battlefield as a teenager exposes the Gitmo show trials as a kangaroo court. But they don’t know whether they have the authority to intervene to stop it.

Administration officials would speak only anonymously about deliberations on whether to try to abort the trial. But their view about the need to improve the system’s perceived credibility — so allies will cooperate by providing evidence or extraditing defendants — was echoed by Kenneth L. Wainstein, assistant attorney general for national security in the Bush administration.

“It is important for the government to be able to proceed through a trial, to do so in a transparent way, and have the world see that this is a fair process with strong safeguards and full due process,” he said. “The sooner that happens, the better.”


Administration officials have discussed whether senior civilian leaders at the Pentagon or elsewhere could get involved, helping to revive plea negotiations or even directing Admiral MacDonald to make a more attractive offer. (Admiral MacDonald did not respond to an interview request.)

A similar high-level intervention would clearly be allowed in the regular court system, where the attorney general supervises prosecutions. But tribunal rules insulate commission officials.

A provision in the Military Commissions Act prohibits “unlawful command influence,” defined as attempting “to coerce, or, by any unauthorized means, influence” the judgment or actions of prosecutors or the convening authority. Officials are debating what that means.

But it seems there are at least two things complicating this picture (I’ll think of more after I drink more coffee).

First, in discussions of Khadr’s potential plea deal, no one seems to admit that the plea deals themselves discredit the military commissions. The press reacted little more favorably to Ibrahim al Qosi’s pretend 14 year sentence that everyone knew was actually two years than they have to the rulings in the Khadr case admitting rape threat tainted evidence. The kabuki quality of the plea deal was one of the reasons Khadr cited for firing his lawyers and rejecting the plea deal they were offering him (they were offering him 30 pretend years and 5 real ones). So a sweeter plea deal, without fixing the whole double secret sentence business, won’t do all that much to restore the credibility of the military commissions.

Also, it seems like the Administration has one other option (and I hope the Canucks will expand on this in comments). After all, our government has transferred every other western detainee back to his home country. There have been discussions with Canada about doing the same. Why not make Omar Khadr Stephen Harper’s problem? Nothing in the military commissions would preclude the Administration from engaging in foreign policy, would it?

Of course, that would require the courage to stand up to the screeching fear-mongers who would attack the Obama Administration for making the same kind of deals that the Bush Administration made.

But international credibility doesn’t come for free. If the Administration is serious about winning international credibility for our kangaroo court, it is going to have to be willing to make the case for credibility itself. And right now, it still seems to be hoping for some gimmick to get out of its Khadr problem.

Khadr Trial Suspended for at Least 30 Days

Things are not going well in our Kangaroo Court. After quickly determining a fake sentence for Osama bin Laden’s cook, Ibrahim al Qosi, matters turned to trying Omar Khadr for an alleged murder that normally wouldn’t be a crime that he allegedly committed as a teenager using evidence gotten through rape threats.

So they picked a jury (but not, thanks to a disqualification from the prosecution team, the guy who agreed with Barack Obama that Gitmo should be closed) and proceeded to the witnesses. Lieutenant Colonel Jon Jackson was in the middle of highlighting the many inconsistencies of prosecution witness testimony when he collapsed in the court room. Daphne Eviatar was in the court room when it happened:

On Thursday afternoon I watched Omar Khadr’s sole defense lawyer, Lt. Col. Jon Jackson, collapse in the Guantanamo Bay courtroom in the middle of conducting a cross-examination of a key government witness. He was taken away on a stretcher by ambulance, hooked up to an I.V. Fortunately he was breathing normally and I hope will be fine, though as an observer in the courtroom I was stunned. It all happened so suddenly and he seemed to be in perfect health and in complete control of his questioning. It seems unlikely at this point that this historic trial will resume on Friday, as scheduled.

It turns out the collapse was related to complications from gall bladder surgery Jackson had about six weeks ago. He just got medivacked to the US for treatment and Khadr’s trial has been suspended for at least 30 days. So the showcase war crime trial for allegations that most don’t consider to be a war crime will have to wait (and they may have to start all over again with jury selection).

And Omar Khadr, who has been held for a third of his life, has another month gone from his life.

Update: Here’s Carol Rosenberg’s report on all this.

Qosi Sentenced to 14 Pretend Years, Reportedly 2 Secret Years

Remember when Omar Khadr wrote this about the military commissions?

Firstly, the unfairness and unjustice of it. I say this because not one of the lawyers I’ve had, or human right organization or any person say that the commission is fair, or looking for justice, but on the contrary they say it is unfair and unjust and that it has been constructed solely to convict detainees and not to find the truth (so how can I ask for justice from a process that does not have it or offer it?) [new color ink–apparently added later] and to accomplish political and public goal and what I mean is when I was offered a plea bargain it was up to 30 years which I was going to spend only 5 years so I asked why the 30 years? I was told it make the US government look good in the public eyes and other political causes. [my emphasis]

Best as I can tell, the fake plea bargain Khadr was offered–in which he would be sentenced publicly, but in which there was a secret agreement that he would serve just a fraction of that time–is what happened to Osama bin Laden cook Ibrahim al Qosi today. After making great show of picking a jury and directing them they could sentence Qosi to between 12 and 15 years, the military commission sentenced al Qosi to 14 years.

But everyone knows that 14 year sentence doesn’t represent Qosi’s real sentence. Instead, he is reported to be serving 2 more years–though there is a bit of a dispute because his plea promised he’d serve his time in communal quarters even though DOD regulations prohibit that.

The day opened with Air Force Lt. Col. Nancy Paul, Qosi’s judge, reversing herself on an order to the prison camps Monday that, whatever sentence Qosi receives, he must be held in a communal POW-style camp for compliant prisoners.

Paul issued the order Monday, saying she understood captivity in the company of some of the other cooperative detainees at Guantánamo was part of a secret annex to his plea agreement approved by retired Vice Adm. Bruce MacDonald, the top Pentagon official overseeing military commissions.

But by Wednesday she noted that collective confinement was not a promise but a recommendation, in part, because, despite a Pentagon bureaucrat’s directive in 2008, the U.S. military has never developed a policy or plan for how to confine war court convicts at Guantánamo.

Call me crazy, but if I were Qosi I’d be really nervous about this double secret plea deal, given that two years is longer than most people are deployed to Gitmo, and two years from now we’ll be in the middle of Presidential election season again.

But that’s what passes for justice in America’s prison colony these days, I guess.

More Kangaroo Court Craziness

Not only did our Kangaroo Court in Gitmo decide that it’s okay to threaten teeenaged boys with rape to get them to confess, but it also announced that the sentence for Ibrahim al Qosi would remain sealed until he was released.

In one courtroom, Air Force Lt. Col. Nancy Paul, a military judge, announced that the length of Ibrahim al Qosi’s plea bargain sentence would be a secret until he was released. The judge then began questioning a jury pool of 15 senior American officers who would on Tuesday deliberate Qosi’s prison sentence.

So much for using the transparency of trials to win hearts and minds! David Iglesias, of the US Attorney firing scandal, is about to issue a statement on this secret sentence.

Then, back to Khadr’s Show Trial, the judge admitted a video crafted by a someone with little real experience in terrorism that has nothing to do with Khadr.

The other disappointing part of today’s hearing was that the government has once again introduced Evan Kohlmann as an expert on al Qaeda and related terrorist groups. The 31-year-old Kohlmann is an NBC news analyst who started his own company that provides reports on terrorist groups to corporations and media organizations, based largely on surfing the Internet. He admitted in court today that he does not speak Arabic or have an advanced degree in anything related to terrorism, Islam or Islamic extremism. He has an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University where he wrote his senior thesis on al Qaeda and Arab-Afghans. All of his research and writing on that and related subjects was based on information he found on the Internet. He appears to believe that his inability to speak or read Arabic did not hinder his ability to review or understand what he found. Kohlmann has created a video that tells the history of al Qaeda and its goals, based, likewise, on video clips and other public documents he’s found online.

Whether Kohlmann is accepted as an expert or not (he probably will be, as he has been in two previous military commission cases and in 16 federal court trials, all testifying for the prosecution), the real issue here seems to be what his expertise has to do with Omar Khadr. Kohlmann testified today that he knows nothing about Omar Khadr except the charges against him. From what I can tell, the defense isn’t contesting that the U.S. is at war with al Qaeda or that al Qaeda has tried to attack the U.S. repeatedly, including on September 11, 2001. But the prosecution isn’t alleging that Omar Khadr had anything to do with that attack, or any of the others that constitute the bulk of Kohlmann’s movie. So I don’t see how the 90-minute historical survey of al Qaeda and Islamic extremist terrorism is going to shed light on whether Omar Khadr is guilty as charged.

Just in case there were any doubts about this being a show trial or not.

And, from Daphne’s update, the Judge also accepted the US claim that killing a uniformed soldier during a war is illegal.

And finally — and perhaps most significantly — Judge Parrish ruled that he is accepting the government’s statement of the laws of war, which defines the killing of a uniformed soldier as a war crime. Never mind that killing the other side’s soldier in a war has never before been considered or prosecuted as a violation of the laws of war.

Happy Monday! You can get more up-to-the-minute updates on the Gitmo Show Trials by following Carol Rosenberg, Muna Shikaki, and Daphne Eviatar on Twitter.