Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Detainee Qahtani Tortured, says Crawford

Susan Crawford, the administration's official in charge of deciding to bring Guantanamo detainees to trial, said that "[w]e tortured [Mohammed al-]Qahtani," according to Bob Woodward's story in today's WaPo.

Crawford dismissed war crimes charges against Qahtani in May 2008 because of torture-induced evidence and said she would not allow new charges to go forward, even if based on subsequently obtained, clean evidence.

If the evidence won't hold up in the military tribunals, it's hard to imagine how it'll hold up in any criminal prosecution in regular Article III courts.  It looks like the government will have a hard time trying Qahtani.

But on the other hand it can't release Qahtani: He's extremely dangerous, alleged to be the 20th hijacker in the 9/11 attacks. 

Compounding this conundrum is the fact that Qahtani isn't alone; and others present slightly different, but similarly intractable issues.

So what to do?

This will be a big question--and big headache--for the Obama administration.    Obama has said he'll close Guantanamo and has considered prosecuting some detainees in regular Article III courts.  If the evidence won't hold up, though, Obama will be faced with a Hobson's choice (courtesy of the Bush administration): He could assert authority to detain individuals like Qahtani indefinitely--the extreme (even untenable) position of the Bush administration; or he could release individuals like Qahtani (and face the political fallout and security consequences).

We'll stay on top of this and report developments.


Executive Authority, News, War Powers | Permalink

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