The Pentagon's senior judge overseeing terror trials at Guantanamo Bay dropped charges Thursday against an al-Qaida suspect in the 2000 USS Cole bombing, upholding President Barak Obama's order to freeze military tribunals there. The charges against suspected al-Qaida bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri marked the last active Guantanamo war crimes case.As reported in the Washington Post:
The legal move by Susan J. Crawford, the top legal authority for military trials at Guantanamo, brings all cases into compliance with Obama's Jan. 22 executive order to halt terrorist court proceedings at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba.
If the case had proceeded against Nashiri, a Saudi facing capital charges, a guilty plea could have boxed in the administration. The legal principle of double jeopardy would apply, and it would have been very difficult to move his case to another court, according to defense attorneys.Questions:
In an interview yesterday, White House counsel Gregory B. Craig said that on a day-to-day basis, one of his primary tasks is reviewing the status of Guantanamo detainees and the process of closing the base.
He said the president has demanded "a thorough factual review for each detainee so that the decision that is made -- whether to transfer him or whether to release this person or whether to prosecute this person or whether to retain and detain this person for the future -- [is] based on an understanding of the facts and the evidence."
- How would a guilty plea to a valid military court have hurt? Unless the Administration's goal is to free everyone regardless of threat or guilt--and I'm not sure even Progressives are pushing that given recent news about released detainees.
- How does calling off al-Nashiri's trial help? As Ed Morriessy says:
This decision puts Nashiri into the very status to which Obama and the Left objected so strenuously: held without charge. That was the status that Congress and the Bush administration worked hard to change twice in passing legislation that established the military tribunal system. The last time, in 2007, Democrats joined Republicans in creating a system with more safeguards for defendants than our own military personnel get under the UCMJ, complete with access to the federal court system on appeal.
- Could Obama be learning that "reject[ing] as false the choice between our safety and our ideals" isn't as simple as saying so on the steps of the Capitol? As Michael Goldfarb observes on the Weekly Standard blog:
Is retain and detain an option? It sounds as though Craig is struggling with the "false choice" between our principles and our security. Unless this is a slip of the tongue, and let's suppose that the White House counsel has chosen his words carefully, the Obama administration seems to be toying with the idea that some prisoners may need to be detained indefinitely and without trial because they can't be transferred, can't be released, and can't be prosecuted with any confidence that they'll be convicted. Instead the government will retain and detain.
- The civilian justice system wasn't designed to cover aliens captured on foreign battlefields. What's wrong with military commissions? They've always been used to try our soldiers and foreign combatants--Nuremberg was an international military commission. But on this topic, the anti-war left is running the war, says The Corner's Andy McCarthy:
[Y]ou could bet the ranch that war crimes defendants would never again be charged in military commissions. Obama's antiwar base, which rejects the premise that we are at war, cannot abide such military prosecutions.
(via Jules Crittenden)