Thursday, August 07, 2008

Bin Laden's Driver Convicted, Faces Sentencing

Update: He got 5 and 1/2 years

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - A jury of U.S. military officers sentenced Osama bin Laden's driver to 5 1/2 years in prison on Thursday for providing material support for terrorism, concluding the first U.S. war crimes tribunal since World War Two.

Salim Hamdan, whose detention at Guantanamo Bay since 2002 prompted the Supreme Court Decision concluding that the original tribunals set up by Bush did not conform with the Geneva Conventions, was convicted of providing material support for terrorism, but was acquitted of conspiracy (interestingly, the government only added the supporting terrorism charge after the Supreme Court case, because it was not previously a codified crime!).

While this is being heralded as a "success" for the military commission, some serious questions remain, including whether any of the crimes actually have any foundation in the law of war, or whether conviction under these novel theories of criminal law might violate the ex post facto clause.

For me, I think the fact that this is the first and strongest case for the government is extremely telling. Are you telling me that of all of the detainees from Guantanamo, who the government has been trying to keep locked up indefinitely without recourse to counsel or the courts because they are "high value," the best we can do is the fucking chauffeur? Not even the government claims that he had any real involvement in the September 11 attacks. It seems Hamdan was mostly motivated by having a job, rather than any strong ideological camaraderie (a notion I can actually empathize with).

If anything, the fact that the first successful conviction 1) of someone who is about as connected with September 11 as the guy who runs the laundromat where the hijackers took their dry cleaning (hey how about the guys who taught the fuckers how to fly?), 2) by a "court" hastily set up with very little regard for the detainees' rights, 3) based on violations of law that did not exist at the time, and 4) almost 7 years later shows how completely backward the Bush administration's (and Congress') "war on terror" has been.

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