Tomorrow night is the broadcast premiere of The Oath on PBS at 10 p.m. EDT (check here for local listings). Directed by documentarian Laura Poitras, The Oath tells the story of Nasser al-Bahri (a.k.a. “Abu Jandal”), Osama bin Laden’s former bodyguard, and his brother-in-law, Salim Hamdan, one of the three Guantánamo Bay detainees to be convicted under the unlawful military commissions. (ACLU National Security Project staff attorney Ben Wizner attended Hamdan’s trial as a human rights observer, and blogged about it here.)
The Oath portrays the bizarre logic of the “War on Terror,” wherein Hamdan, a man with a fourth-grade education who was paid $200 per month to be bin Laden’s driver, was captured and sent to Guantanamo for seven years, while Jandal, a lifelong jihadist who took an oath of loyalty to bin Laden, is a free man after a two-year incarceration in a Yemeni jail following the 2000 attack on the USS Cole.
The film also explores Jandal’s guilty conscience: we learn that during an FBI interrogation following the 9/11 attacks, Jandal named Hamdan as an al-Qaeda associate, which led to his brother-in-law’s capture and lengthy imprisonment at Guantánamo. The New Yorker’s David Denby wrote of Jandal: “He’s an extraordinary subject—handsome, lively, explicit, often eloquent, and bizarrely divided in his nature.”
The Oath will also be viewable online from September 22–27.