National Security Network

Hamdan Verdict Underscores Need to Ensure American Security, Safeguard our Values

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Press Release Washington, D.C. 6 August 2008

Hamdan President Bush rand beers

Today's conviction of Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's former driver on the lesser of two counts marks the end of a 7-year military and judicial journey that involved countless court procedures, including a Supreme Court ruling that repudiated the Bush administration's flawed use of military commissions.

"Today's verdict does little if anything to advance American security.  The
entire process raises fundamental questions about the administration's disregard for our constitutional values and may well do America more harm than good in the court of world opinion," said Rand Beers, President of the National Security Network. "It took seven years for the Bush administration's military commissions system to get its first conviction for a crime that is regularly prosecuted in federal court. And when it did, it was a driver who even the administration acknowledges did not participate in the planning or execution of any terrorist attacks.  Surely there is a better way to protect America and bring terrorists to justice while adhering to the constitutional values that have kept us safe and strong for 200 years," Beers continued.

NSN also produced a report examining the various facets of the Hamdan case, which you can find below:

VERDICT: We Waited Seven Years for This?

The Bush administration's policies have not only violated our basic values and traditions; almost seven years after the 9/11 attacks, they have failed to bring terrorists to justice while damaging the credibility of our justice system and our democracy in the eyes of the world.  In fact, we learned during this trial that the Bush administration failed to follow up on Hamdan's offer of assistance in helping track Osama Bin Laden - a revelation that further brings into question the administration's strategy in the "Global War on Terror."

Military commission finds Guantanamo detainee Hamdan guilty on lesser of two charges against him.  The military commission established by the Bush administration reached a verdict in the case against Osama Bin Laden's driver Salim Hamdan on Wednesday.  The jury, made up of active US service members, found Hamdan guilty of material support for terrorism but acquitted him of the more serious charge of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts.  That means even under these extremely favorable trial procedures the government could not persuade a simple majority of the six jurors that Hamdan was guilty of conspiracy.  Sentencing will follow, although the case is almost certain to be appealed to the Court of Military Commission Review as established by the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

The Bush administration's military commissions system violates American values and constitutional traditions.  The military commission in Guantanamo Bay was neither fair nor up to the standards of American values.  Hamdan's trial allowed the use of hearsay testimony.  Conviction only required four out of six jurors to agree. Evidence procured from torture and other coercive interrogation methods - methods so troubling that Hamdan's original prosecutor quit before the case began  Americans can be proud that individual military lawyers and judges tried hard to make this trial fair and it is they who deserve better from the U.S. government.  Even had he been acquitted of the charges, Hamdan would not have been released until after the "war on terror" had ended.  This would amount to incarcerating an innocent person with no certain date for release, after already having been imprisoned for 7 years.  Such practices are far beneath American values.  [LA Times, 8/4/08]

The Bush administration's military commissions system is failing to achieve the objective of convicting and jailing dangerous terrorists.  After seven years of the "War on Terror," the administration's military tribunal system has managed only to convict a low level Al Qaeda member whom even the government admits was a driver and not a senior level operative.  Salim Hamdan was merely the driver for Osama Bin Laden who neither planned nor participated in terrorist operations.  Perpetrators of terrorist attacks against America, such as 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, could have been in federal court long ago like Zacharias Moussaoui or the World Trade Center 1993 attackers, each of whom received life in prison without the possibility of parole. Instead, they remain in the limbo of Guantanamo Bay, glorified as enemy combatants instead of prosecuted as the criminals that they are.  [Wall Street Journal, 7/24/08]