The Latest Prop from Gitmo

I’m generally sympathetic with the complaints defense attorneys are making about the release of the latest diatribe from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and friends. Much of the attention has focused on the question, "Why is the military judge in the case issuing orders in this case when Obama has halted all commissions?" perhaps not least because it recalls the actions of James Pohl, who refused to stay Rahim al-Nashiri’s trial after Obama ordered all proceedings to halt.

But the complaints I’m most interested in have to do with the genesis of the document itself. What proof is there that all five detainees have signed this document, Adam al-Hawsawi’s attorney asked, when all we’ve got is a typed English document.

"There is no evidence that Mr. al Hawsawi knew about, read or signed this document ," Maj. Jon Jackson said in an email. "It is a typed message in English with no signature.  I object to this highly irregular document release." Maj. Jackson said he was unaware of the statement until the military judge ordered copies sent to attorneys Monday.

And how is it that this document has been published so quickly, other defense attorneys ask, when their own filings still haven’t been released?

Defense attorneys and civil liberties groups said that the speed with which Judge Stephen R. Henley, an Army colonel, released the statement after reviewing it March 5 was troubling. They pointed to an e-mail from the clerk of court for the military commissions to counsel on the issue, which said, "I have been asked by our . . . folks to release the documents ASAP."

Defense attorneys said they are still trying to secure the release of pleadings they filed eight months ago.

The authorities at Gitmo would have you believe that the five 9/11 detainees charged with 9/11 wrote this on March 1, got it translated into English and typed up and hand-classified Top Secret/SCI, then was given to the judge on March 5. And the judge reviewed it, reviewed its classification and deemed it unclassified, and then released it all by March 10. [Update: As drational points out, the first page of the diatribe itself has the date 2/24/09 in what appears to be the same hand as the TS/SCI classification–so this timeline goes back into at least February some time. He points out that the date probably refers to 12/1/08.]

I guess the Gitmo apologists can Read more

Why Drop Charges Against Al-Qahtani?

The AP reports that charges against Mohammed al-Qahtani have been dropped, suggesting that charges were dropped because he was tortured.

The Pentagon has dropped charges against a Saudi at Guantanamo who was alleged to have been the so-called "20th hijacker" in the Sept. 11 attacks, his U.S. military defense lawyer said Monday.

Mohammed al-Qahtani was one of six men charged by the military in February with murder and war crimes for their alleged roles in the 2001 attacks. Authorities say al-Qahtani missed out on taking part in the attacks because he was denied entry to the U.S. by an immigration agent.

But in reviewing the case, the convening authority for military commissions, Susan Crawford, decided to dismiss the charges against al-Qahtani and proceed with the arraignment for the other five, said Army Lt. Col. Bryan Broyles, the Saudi’s military lawyer.


Officials previously said al-Qahtani had been subjected to a harsh interrogation authorized by former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

But that’s not right. After all, the remaining 5 detainees were also tortured. Heck, the government has even admitted to water-boarding Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. But he’s still going to get a show trial.

I would suggest that two things contributed to al-Qahtani’s charges being dropped. First, the disqualification of Thomas Hartmann last week may be related. As I suggested in my post on the disqualification, Judge Allred made clear that the charges against Hamdan could go forward because those charges were finalized before Hartmann came on the scene. But the charges in which Hartmann was directly involved–notably of the group of high value detainees that until Friday included al-Qahtani–would be affected. The government is now going to have to prove that those 6 5 detainees would have been charged even without Hartmann making decisions about whether to include evidence gained by torture.

Note that Allred’s decision is dated May 9, Friday, the same day Susan Crawford decided to drop charges against al-Qahtani, so if this was a response to the Hartmann disqualification, it was a very quick response.

But there’s another reason why the charges against al-Qahtani were dropped while KSM will still be charged: evidence that the torture against al-Qahtani didn’t reveal anything. Read more