Gitmo Detainee Convicted at Trial

Bump and Update: Ali Hamza al Bahlul has been found guilty at his Guantanamo Military Commissions trial.The ACLU says (statement to be available here shortly):
“The conviction of Al Bahlul is yet another example of a military commission system set up to produce convictions, not to deliver real justice. Unfortunately, because the system is fundamentally flawed and lacks any semblance of due process, a cloud of illegitimacy hangs over this verdict. The world deserves better than that from America. The next president should close Guantánamo and future prosecutions should occur in criminal or military courts where the Constitution still means something and where verdicts, no matter what they are, can be trusted.” ...The ACLU calls on the next president to close Guantánamo, ban torture and end extraordinary rendition.

Original Post:

McCain vs. Obama on Gitmo Trials


The New York Times has a feature article today about "tough choices" the new President will face on the remaining Guantanamo detainees. It claims:

While both presidential candidates have said they would close the detention center, they have not said in detail how they would handle the remaining detainees.

That's not quite correct. Both candidates have stated their specific position on how to handle the detainees alleged to be terrorists who have committed criminal acts and there is a clear difference between John McCain and Barack Obama.

John McCain would continue trials by military commission. Barack Obama would move the trials to our federal criminal courts or have military trials under the Code of Military Justice. He has been consistent in his opposition to the Military Commissions Act and the unfair trials it created.

After Osama bin Laden's one-time driver Salim Hamdan was convicted by military tribunal, McCain said:

"This process demonstrated that military commissions can effectively bring very dangerous terrorists to justice. The fact that the jury did not find Hamdan guilty of all of the charges brought against him demonstrates that the jury weighed the evidence carefully."

McCain noted that he supported the law creating the military tribunals while Obama has opposed it.

Obama was equally clear:

"It's time to better protect the American people and our values by bringing swift and sure justice to terrorists through our courts and our Uniform Code of Military Justice."

...Obama supports shutting down the Guantanamo prison and says U.S. civilian courts and the traditional military courts-martial system can handle detainee trials....He said he would adhere to the Geneva Conventions, which bans the use of torture of war prisoners.

As TChris wrote here,

Obama rejects McCain's willingness to detain people for years before giving them an unfair hearing, and reminds us that the path to justice is enshrined in our Constitution...If American constitutional values are important to you, the difference between Obama and McCain is clear.

Obama's voting record on the Military Commissions Act and related habeas amendments is here. His 9/28/06 statement in the Senate on the MCA is here. His 9/27 statement in the Senate on habeas corpus is here.

Here is Obama's full statement on the June 12, 2008 Supreme Court decision:

"Today's Supreme Court decision ensures that we can protect our nation and bring terrorists to justice, while also protecting our core values. The Court's decision is a rejection of the Bush Administration's attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo - yet another failed policy supported by John McCain. This is an important step toward reestablishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law, and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus.

Our courts have employed habeas corpus with rigor and fairness for more than two centuries, and we must continue to do so as we defend the freedom that violent extremists seek to destroy. We cannot afford to lose any more valuable time in the fight against terrorism to a dangerously flawed legal approach. I voted against the Military Commissions Act because its sloppiness would inevitably lead to the Court, once again, rejecting the Administration's extreme legal position.

The fact is, this Administration's position is not tough on terrorism, and it undermines the very values that we are fighting to defend. Bringing these detainees to justice is too important for us to rely on a flawed system that has failed to convict anyone of a terrorist act since the 9-11 attacks, and compromised our core values," said Barack Obama.

Contrary to the premise in the Times article, it's not a tough choice and both candidates have declared their intentions. Obama's position is far superior to McCain's.

Related: The AP has this article, Sun Sets on Gitmo Trials. It notes only one more trial is currently set before Jan. 20 when Bush leaves office.

"Whoever wins next week should ask the Bush administration to suspend the military commissions since the winner inherits all the mess that piles up from now until inauguration day," said [retired Air Force Col. Morris]Davis, who quit last year complaining of political interference.
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  • Display: Sort:
    suspension of the (none / 0) (#1)
    by cpinva on Mon Nov 03, 2008 at 06:10:20 AM EST
    military commissions, until the next inauguration, would be the right and honorable thing to do. that's why i don't expect pres. bush to do it.

    after all, he has a mandate from god, doesn't he?

    The "new" congress convenes Jan 3, 09 (none / 0) (#2)
    by wurman on Mon Nov 03, 2008 at 08:10:25 AM EST
    Perhaps Speaker Pelosi & Majority Leader Reid can find the courage to stop efforts by Bu$hInc to "poison the well" of our next administration.

    It's also possible that the 2 leaders can keep Congress in session sufficiently to preclude Bu$h xliii from any lame duck appointments.  There may be some glimmers of hope & change before the inauguration on Jan 20, 09.

    Obama on habeus corpus (none / 0) (#3)
    by CST on Mon Nov 03, 2008 at 10:02:39 AM EST
    has probably been his most consistent (and my favorite) position.

    The endorsement he received by the lawyers for Guantanamo detainees was the most encouraging thing I've heard about Obama.

    Guantanamo is a disgrace and will go down in history along side the japanese internment camps as one of our nation's ugliest moments.