The End of the Beginning? Or the Beginning of the End?

Nearly four years have passed since I first traveled to Guantánamo to observe proceedings in the military commission prosecution of Canadian Omar Khadr, who was 15 years old when seized in Afghanistan and has now spent fully a third of his life in captivity. In an ordinary justice system, Khadr's trial – and very likely any possible sentence – would have been completed long ago. Here at Guantánamo, we were back to square one with the dismissal of one of Khadr's lawyers and the introduction of two new defense lawyers – numbers 10 and 11 by my count – who are unfamiliar with the case and will need quite a bit of time to get up to speed. In other words, it's déjà vu all over again.

Or perhaps not. Today the prosecution requested, and the court granted, a further delay in proceedings until November 16, 2009, on which date the Obama administration has pledged to reach a "definitive forum resolution" in Khadr's case. In other words, on or before that date, the administration will decide whether to continue the prosecution in the military commission system, transfer it to a federal court, or dismiss the case altogether. It appears that the administration is still deliberating.

Chief military prosecutor John Murphy used a post-hearing press conference to lobby, quite openly, for the Khadr case to remain within the military commission system. His stated rationale is that military prosecutors are most familiar with the case, but that's hardly a persuasive justification for further tarnishing the nation's historic leadership on human rights by prosecuting a child soldier in an illegitimate system. Of course, the military has other reasons for seeking to keep control of these proceedings: Unlike federal courts, military commissions will permit the use of evidence obtained unconstitutionally and, perhaps more importantly, will allow the government to conceal details of its mistreatment of prisoners from the public.

That Murphy felt the need to plead publicly for the commissions' continued relevance may indicate that he believes he's losing this battle internally. Let's hope so. The commissions have been an unmitigated embarrassment, and an unnecessary one. They should be abolished. Every single offense charged by military commission prosecutors could and should have been prosecuted in established federal courts. Khadr's case belongs, if anywhere, in those courts. Or perhaps the Obama administration will decide that eight years in Guantánamo is punishment enough for a juvenile offender, and will repatriate Khadr to his country and his family.

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Mike Farley

I have to tell you that the ACLU is at the heart of everything wrong about the USA today. You want to destroy the very freedomes and principles this oncew great nation stands for. I welcome and challenge any of you to a debate on how you are destroying America. I believe in Christianity and am proud to be a God fearing man.

Yeah Guantanamo

People out to destroy Democracy and the United States do not deserve our time and money. Their own countries need to provide for their legal defense. They have no rights just as American's would receive no benefits if imprisoned in other Countries. American can no longer afford this waste of money. The ACLU needs to review their priorities and focus on the rights of Legal American Citizens.

Richard Sacca

At 15, khadr, was on his way to being a stand-up, contributing citizen of this great planet Earth.....NOT! And, I'm sure, if we send him back to his country, he will fight for world peace. Maybe the ACLU can hire him as an advocate in his country.


Mike, I find it interesting that most (Maggie and Steve being prominent exclusions) negative commenters are unable to provide any detail other than a general dislike of the ACLU. Do us all a favor and give us some detail.

The ACLU has no problem with you being a Christian and God fearing. I don't either, expect when the State tries to coerce me into becoming you.


The only freedom wing nuts like Farley
believe in is the right to spout the party line like brainless sheep.
Btw Mikey where exactly in the Gospel does Jesus encourage torture and abusing children.I thought he was more into ideas like doing unto others as you would have do unto you.


Paen: so your saying it's okay to let a 15yr old commit a crime like conspiring to kill inniocent people? I was in Iraq, I saw what a teenager can do to an adult, let alone a group of people. I had to administer aid to soldiers and civilians after a teenager blew himself up. ACLU wants all people around the world to have the same freedom as we do, even though they are not law abiding people.

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