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Bush Commissions End With a Whimper

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January 20, 2009

As one might predict, yesterday's military commission hearings at Guantanamo, the last of the Bush administration, yielded very little in terms of clarification or justice. Attorneys in the Omar Khadr case muddled through some technicalities: namely, did the re-referral of charges for all Gitmo detainees back in December require all cases to start over from the beginning? The judge, Army Colonel Patrick Parrish, determined it did not, and the Khadr's trial will commence on January 26, as planned, unless President Obama puts the brakes on it this week.

One big piece of news to come out of yesterday's hearing is testimony from an FBI agent that during a 2002 interrogation, Khadr claimed he saw fellow Canadian Maher Arar at an Afghani safe house. Jamil Dakwar, Director of the ACLU's Human Rights Program, who observed yesterday's hearing, told the Globe and Mail:

It was truly a shameful scene to watch the government attempting to establish Khadr's guilt through his dead father's associations with al Qaeda when he was younger than 15 years old. Instead of admitting the outrageous mishandling of Khadr's case, the government is even ready to tarnish the name of an innocent man like Maher Arar who was tortured at the behest of the US government to justify this broken and tainted system.

In the cases of the detainees accused of 9/11 crimes, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh appeared before Judge Stephen Henley. The Pentagon prosecutor's request to postpone yesterday's hearing after Obama's inauguration was rejected.

This week, On the Media (OTM) offered an interesting perspective on propaganda tactics deployed by the Pentagon in Gitmo last week: The Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg, the only U.S.-based journalist at Gitmo at the time of the reporting, talks about watching groups of foreign reporters being led around the base for press tours—the Bush administration's final attempt to show the world that Gitmo is transparent, humane and safe. But OTM makes a good point: Did Robert Gates, the current and future Secretary of Defense, get the memo that Obama plans to close Gitmo? So why the PR offensive now?

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