With Gitmo hearing, a legal 'circus' resumes
May 4th, 2012
02:00 AM ET

With Gitmo hearing, a legal 'circus' resumes

By Larry Shaughnessy

The Obama administration's struggle over how to handle the prisoners and prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, enters a new chapter Saturday when a military judge there will convene an arraignment for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men for their alleged roles in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

It could be a routine military commission hearing, with charges being read and pleas being entered, or it could be the latest act of a legal and political free-for-all.

"I've had conversations with other people who believe the circus is going to begin with the first appearance," said Rear Adm. Donald Guter, who once served as the Navy's top lawyer.

"One of the most important things that's going to happen at arraignment is the scheduling of the trial and the scheduling of the motions hearings, and I'm sure there will be many," according to Neal Puckett, a lawyer and retired Marine colonel who has spent most of his career in military courtrooms.

Technically, once the five are arraigned, the court has met the constitutional requirement for a speedy trial.

"The reality of course is that no one at Gitmo is getting a speedy trail. The rules are written as such to run the clock from the time that the charges are actually preferred or sworn, and of course that process has sort of started and stopped and started and stopped several times," Puckett said.

Mohammed was brought to Guantanamo Bay in 2006 after being held by the CIA but was not brought to trial until June 2008, when the five suspects first appeared before a military commission on the charges against them.

Under that commission, Mohammed tried to plead guilty. But while the judge was considering the plea, the process stopped. "The original set of rules and laws that were set down under the Bush administration for the trial by military commission were basically struck down by the Supreme Court, so they had to start over and basically put together a new framework, a new regime," Puckett said.

The Obama administration decided in 2009 that the new framework would be the existing federal criminal courts, helping to keep President Obama's campaign promise to close Gitmo. But near instantaneous and impassioned objections from Congress and New York officials, among others, led to that idea being shelved.

Now, the suspects face charges under a reconfigured military commissions system.

Mohammed is expected to appear in court with Walid bin Attash, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi and Ammar al-Baluchi.

The five are charged with terrorism, hijacking aircraft, conspiracy, murder in violation of the law of war, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, intentionally causing serious bodily injury and destruction of property in violation of the law of war.

They face the death penalty if convicted of the most serious charges.

But opponents of the military commissions for these cases say the suspects could benefit from not having hearings in federal court.

"There's no precedence at all to rely on; this is sort of make it up as you go," Guter said. Since there's no precedence for many issues that will probably arise in the trial, any one of them could cause a conviction to be overturned on appeal. Had the trial been in federal court, those issues could have long since been settled.

Guter said he believes that ultimately, it's the victims and their families who could pay the price for the cases being heard by a military commission. "One of the things you want to see is closure and finality, and I think ... if you were in the federal system, you'd get to finality faster. This is a risky way to take care of these trials, these important trials."

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Filed under: 9/11 • Gitmo • Khalid Sheikh Mohammed • Legal • Living With Terror • Terrorism
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Bobby Dias

    This is not a world of equal opportunity- Americans can raid other countries while these guys are locked up and treated like dirt.

    May 8, 2012 at 5:23 am | Reply
  2. Ruppert Jenkins

    Eleven years after 9-11, they start this silliness? What were they waiting for , the bad guys to first get Alzheimers and be in wheelchairs? I (and many others) could have donated a single 9mm round and saved them $100 million.

    May 5, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Reply
  3. Paul

    So instead of closing Gitmo Obama orders the assassination of 3 american citizens, perpetuates the Patriot Act, amplifies TSA's powers and votes for NDAA, SOPA and PIPA.

    May 5, 2012 at 10:53 am | Reply
    • ronny

      Whats u r problem?Have u converted to u fkislam?or r u being apologetic for they crimes they committed?

      May 5, 2012 at 11:26 am | Reply
      • Evil Socialist

        Typical American illiterate.

        May 6, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
  4. Sagebrush Shorty

    Is our government really this stupid?

    May 5, 2012 at 8:27 am | Reply
  5. eroteme

    I thought Obama had taken care of this matter right after his election.

    May 5, 2012 at 8:13 am | Reply
    • ComSenseWiz

      You would have had to have been in Siberian solitary confinement to not know how this situation has evolved.

      May 5, 2012 at 8:20 am | Reply
      • Dan

        Evovle(d)? That's what you call lies today? That man knew good and well he couldn't shut that place down... and if he truly didn't, then he has to be the most naive man on the planet. Even the terrorists themselves knew that wouldn't happen. What law abiding citizen of any country would want these terrorists in their backyard?

        May 5, 2012 at 8:32 am |
      • Ruppert Jenkins

        Evolved? "EVOLVED"? I love the absurd and obvious euphemisms Obama bootlickers provide as excuses for their Messiah.

        May 5, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  6. jimmer

    gitmo still open? but i thought obummmer closed it....you know....campaign promise.....lol

    May 5, 2012 at 8:08 am | Reply
    • ComSenseWiz

      That campaign promise was trumped by a significant push back by Congress and New York City where the trials were to be held. It was also trumped by rules of discovery in the Fed judicial procedure that would expose classified information that can not get out.

      May 5, 2012 at 8:25 am | Reply
      • Trevor

        The second half of your statement was an extremely incompetent job by Obama's campaign team, making a promise to the American people that they thought they could keep or it was extremely dishonest if they did know...

        May 5, 2012 at 10:21 am |
      • Trevor

        ...they couldn't.

        May 5, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  7. Sagebrush Shorty

    All this political garbage and governmental incompetence should make us realize that a "take no prisoners" policy may be the best solution after all. Are we at war with terrorism or are we just playing some politically correct game? If we are at war,particularly with radical Islam, then kill the enemy.

    May 5, 2012 at 8:00 am | Reply
    • ComSenseWiz

      In other words, "drone trials" (my favorite).

      May 5, 2012 at 8:19 am | Reply
    • glennrobert

      Even war has rules. In Korea I got some protection from the Geneva convention. So did the enemy. If the evidence is to secret to bring to the trial the defendants should walk. (?) Not going to happen. This entire thing is not defined by our constitution and should not be legal. If this is war there should be rules. If it is not war they should be in the civilian courts. We are all badly confused!

      May 5, 2012 at 8:38 am | Reply
      • Ruppert Jenkins

        Let me alleviate your confusion with one simple edict: Kill All the Bad Guys. Case closed.

        May 5, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
  8. Si Naylor

    They better ask him how they expected to fly those planes for so long without NORAD intercepting them. Not thinking of that is not much of a plane, as that is what should have happened. Also, how did he expect his hijackers to fly those planes so well when they had never flown anything close to that size before while training in Florida, and California. Not much of a plan. Just luck. Ask him how surprised was he when they expected no buildings to collapse but both towers collapsed, and another skyscraper (WTC7), which wasn't even hit by a plan collapsed. What was his actual plane as this was certainly not expected and not much of a plan. Best thoughts to all who died and to those first responders and others who continue to die from being exposed to the toxic air following the event when the EPA lied to everyone about the air being safe so they could reopen Wall street. .

    May 5, 2012 at 7:45 am | Reply
    • Si Naylor

      Please excuse my misspelling above of plan and plane (more than once).

      May 5, 2012 at 7:47 am | Reply
    • Mark

      I'm so tired of you conspiracy nuts. They flew the planes into buildings, the buildings burned and fell down. Get over it.

      May 5, 2012 at 8:22 am | Reply

    This process will take not only the remainder of this current decade but many years into the next. Many of the families will die before the process is concluded.

    May 5, 2012 at 7:12 am | Reply
    • ComSenseWiz

      The families of those killed on 9/11 got substantial closure when the main guy, OBL, was taken out a year ago. He is now fish mulch in the Arabian Sea after his brains were blown out.

      May 5, 2012 at 8:31 am | Reply
  10. Everett Wallace

    The Military Courts trials will take longer than other Courts. To be at that level you are a DAnger to the security of the World, so We have our protocol when dealing with THese types of individuals. I am sure everyone understands. We cannot allow another 9/11.

    May 5, 2012 at 7:08 am | Reply
  11. Barber

    That is one wooly dude. He's hairy as a sasquatch. Bet he's sweating his nuts off in that warm Cuban sun.

    May 4, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Reply
  12. Hahahahahahaha

    When did John Belushi govern Iraq? Hahahahahahahaha

    May 4, 2012 at 1:50 pm | Reply

    in the security clearence of cnn , the choices of topics is totally a list of bin laden recycled reports , for the sole purpose of bumping up the obama camp polls , but infact the polls dip on the obama side because the american people are NOT FOOLS.

    this terrorist in gitmo is a perfect picture of the obama camps inability to bring justice to this terrorist , and the terrorist of the fort hood shooting has been officially named as a work place event , and the obama camp quickly remove the terrorist name plate from the mad man that carried out the attack against our troops.

    May 4, 2012 at 7:44 am | Reply
    • Catamount

      Two thumbs up.

      There is a choice on how to approach Salafist Islam, or the segment of the muslim population that seeks to expand the geographic scope of strict interpretation of the Koran, or Shariah law.

      You canb treat their global jihad as a crime, like Clinton and Obama. Remember "We're going to investigate and bring them to justice..." Oh, really? You're going to have a CSI crime scene in Yemen or Somalia or some Afghan valley and walk around interviewing witnesses? Or you can do it the Bush way: Treat it as a global war on terrorism.

      The criminal approach invokes all the mirandizing and right to a lawyer at public expense and Jerry Springer lawyers. They get the full gammut of criminal due process. Did Patton mirandize the Nazis? Did Westmoreland mirandize the Viet Cong? The war approach invokes the law of war, mostly contained in the Geneva Conventions and Hague Regulations. A lawful combatant is held in a prisoner of war camp for the duration of hostilities with all the Geneva Convention rights. An unlawful combatant, he gets a tribunal.

      This legal circus is Obama's making. He irrationally keeps trying to push this war back into a criminal law paradigm. That's what happens when a community organizer stumbles into the presidency, and appoints a mediocre lawyer who is all about politics/nothing about justice as his attorney general.

      May 4, 2012 at 8:18 am | Reply
      • The Realist

        Did America and the Allies bomb Dresden?

        Since when did civilian casualties matter to "the winners"?

        The only lesson of 9/11 is: What goes around, comes around".

        May 5, 2012 at 7:19 am |
      • glennrobert

        There is no war on terrorism. Who is terrorism? This should be dealt with as a police problem not a military problem. There is no final solution just like the war (?) on drugs which has been going on for 80 years. Someday there will be another event like 9/11 or maybe worse so live with it!

        May 5, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • The REAL Truth...

      I call BS – The American people are individually VERY intelligent, but as a group are complete and utter morons. FOOLS is a kind word in comparison. Witness the numbers who believe that Obama is going to take away their guns and email pictures of him as S&W's top salesman!! How incredibly inane is that? What about those who are led to think that there ACTUALLY were WMD's in Iraq !! I'm not going to waste space ranting about the ignorance of the "collective". There plenty of evidence out there to prove it. After all we keep electing the same IDIOTS to Congress don't we, yet each "side"
      whines about the others failing, instead of working together for the betterment of the country. Oh yes, my friend we certainly are a collective group of FOOLS!! Been proven time after time.

      May 4, 2012 at 9:59 am | Reply
      • Trevor

        As a collective group Americans are morons? Based on your "comprehensive" claim of "witness the numbers..." or "what about those..." Those seem to surely "big" numbers you're implying, considering if the "collective whole" was only 50.0001% that would be around 156 million folks. For your "witness the numbers" and "what about those" topics...do you have any ACTUAL links that point to a legitimate survey on these topics that may lend some actual creditability to your "collective whole" claim? The "REAL" truth? How about some BS thrown back your way...what you hear in the media or on the internet on these topics is usually "to the extreme" for "shock value" and ratings unless you didn't figure that out already...

        BTW, there are ALOT "intelligent" people out there that don't have the common sense God gave a goat and when you yourself seem to be equating "intelligence" as the polar opposite of "ignorance" shows you're either not paying attention, or you're in fact part of the "ignorant" in the aspect of word usage. You can be "intelligent" (you have good cognitive problem-solving skills) and be extremely "ignorant" (you don't know the information) at the same time. Just trying to help you out next time you feel the urge to crap on the people of this country in you next "rant".

        Good to know that you're part of the "intelligent", oh I mean "informed" segment of the U.S. population...you've yet to demonstrate the former and this is not the formum to demonstrate said skills...

        May 5, 2012 at 2:19 am |
      • Trevor


        ...of the latter.

        May 5, 2012 at 2:22 am |
      • Water into beer

        Uh...80% of the population believe in angels. That's not the baseball team, but those winged dudes who flit about pulling Timmy from the well and going to bat for the good ol' savings and loan. Morons, as a term for the general pop. is euphemistic at best.

        May 5, 2012 at 7:51 am |
      • Trevor

        H20- And we as a collective whole feel so much better along with TRUTH that you both feel so "qualified" to make such general judgements on a whole host of things that people believe, now to include issues of the "supernatural" that I'm sure you just abound with "insight" on. We know that it makes you feel so much better about yourselves to essentially make the comment..."oh what am I to do with myself, I surrounded by stupid people!" Must really suck to be so convinced of your own superior intellectual and/or knowlege based capabilities, yet be surrounded with people that you'd never dare sink to their "level". Man, I'd really like some of what you got...on second thought I'll pass.

        May 5, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • Thor the Badass Thunder God

      Where do they dip? If they are indeed dipping, then Romney must really suck because he's got Romney beat in almost every category of voters

      May 4, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Reply
      • Dan

        Says the media. One day you'll learn not to believe a word they say. Do you have any idea how many presidencies they media claimed strong numbers for one candidate, yet the other one won? It's laughable at best.

        May 5, 2012 at 8:38 am |
  14. michaelfury


    May 4, 2012 at 7:41 am | Reply
  15. michaelfury

    Waterboard KSM until he tells where he got the nanothermite to demo the towers.


    May 4, 2012 at 7:39 am | Reply

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