What The Thunder Said

Unexpected developments at work. Today at Guantanamo Bay, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, long known to be the mastermind of Sept. 11, pleaded guilty to the attacks in their military tribunals! But it might all be undone by the fact of Mohammed’s torture.

Human Rights Watch, which is on hand at Guantanamo to assess the tribunals, sent out this statement:

“What should have been a major victory in holding the 9/11 defendants accountable for terrible crimes has been tainted by torture and an unfair military commissions process,” said Jennifer Daskal, senior counterterrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch. “These five men are known to have been mistreated and tortured during their years in CIA custody, including the acknowledged waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.”

Daskal continues:

Under the rules of the military commissions, a judge cannot accept a guilty plea unless he determines that the plea is voluntary and free of coercion.

“In light of the men’s severe mistreatment and torture, the judge should require a full and thorough factual inquiry to determine whether or not these pleas are voluntary,” Daskal said.

We know that KSM, as he’s known in the counterterrorism world, was waterboarded. Waterboarding is torture. Torture may have just cost the U.S. a guilty plea in a 9/11 tribunal. All thanks are due to George Bush, Dick Cheney, David Addington, Alberto Gonzales, Donald Rumsfeld, William Haynes, John Yoo, and George Tenet. Was torturing this evil man worth it?

Crossposted to The Streak.

Update: This just in from the ACLU’s Anthony Romero, who’s at GTMO today:

"No one should be surprised that a system that allows for serial torture and abuse and holds detainees for years without charging them or granting them access to attorneys has led the defendants to capitulate and seek to plead guilty. It’s abundantly clear that a coerced guilty plea resulting from years of torture and abuse would never have been accepted in a legitimate court and should not be accepted here. Anyone who believes that this is a victory for American justice is sadly mistaken. History will show that any guilty pleas in these proceedings were the result of an inhumane, unjust process designed to achieve a foregone conclusion.

"Ironically, the one open legal question is whether or not entering guilty pleas under these flawed military commissions will allow the government to seek the death penalty. The fact that it’s still unclear whether the government can secure death sentences through guilty pleas just underscores how fundamentally flawed the process was from the outset.

"This has been a legal farce from the beginning to the bitter end. And perhaps most cynically, this flawed process will dump three guilty pleas into the lap of President Obama’s new Justice Department along with the question of whether or not any of these defendants are competent to offer these pleas after years of torture and abuse."

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Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman