It's really very simple. Obama needs to keep his word and close down Guantanamo Bay and make sure we DO NOT TORTURE. I was on a conference call with
December 9, 2008

It's really very simple. Obama needs to keep his word and close down Guantanamo Bay and make sure we DO NOT TORTURE. I was on a conference call with Digby, mcjoan, Christy of FDL and Glenn Greenwald along with Anthony Romero from the ACLU last night who was at the trial yesterday, and he said the awful military commission, led by the judge, Colonel Stephen Henley, put on a good performance to make believe these guys were tried in a real court. It was all kangaroo.

In a letter the judge read aloud in court, the five defendants said they "request an immediate hearing session to announce our confessions".

The defendants said in the note that they made their decision on 4 November, the day Mr Obama was elected to become the next US president. It appeared that they wanted to rush towards convictions before Mr Obama – who has vowed to end the war-crimes trials and close Guantanamo – took office.

Mohammed and another defendant, facing possible death sentences if convicted, said at their arraignment in June they would welcome execution as a path to martyrdom. 

But word that they were giving up their defence came as a shock to some of the victims' families – a select group of whom were in court. 

Alice Hoagland, of Redwood Estates, California, was there for her son Mark Bingham, who is believed to be one of the passengers who fought hijackers on the United Airlines flight that crashed in rural Pennsylvania. 

She said the defendants' announcement was "a real bombshell to me".

She told reporters she hoped Mr Obama, "an even-minded and just man", would ensure the five alleged mass murderers were punished.

The judge, Colonel Stephen Henley, asked Mohammed and his co-defendants if they were prepared to enter a plea. All five said yes, but Col Henley ordered mental competency tests on two of them. Mohammed said they would wait and all plead together.

There's an obvious power play going on to make it harder for Obama to proceed with his foreign policy plans and force him to bend to their will. Glenn Greenwald made the great point that he feels Obama will close Guantanamo, but what about the trials? These military commissions are a travesty of justice and we have to wonder what Obama will do about them.

If Klaus Barbie could be tried and convicted in an open court, then why can't Khalid Sheikh Mohammed be given the same treatment? What is wrong with the American legal system? I'm not glad to be defending these very bad people, but we have to keep the rule of law intact. We are a nation of laws. Use them. If Obama does the right thing and doesn't bend to the tremendous pressure from the military that is in overdrive at this point, he will show true leadership that will have a great impact around the world and actually remove a powerful recruiting tool for the growing number of terrorists.

UPDATE: Anthony Romero from the ACLU writes:

"This afternoon's hearing was just another chapter in the Guantánamo military commissions debacle. Neither the military judge nor the accused are clear about how these proceedings will move forward. What is abundantly clear is that no matter how hard the government tries to advance the military commissions, this process doesn't work.

Questions of the death penalty and the competence of several of the defendants are still unresolved – and not likely to be resolved. The only solution is to shut the military commissions down and start from scratch."

mcjoan has a great post up and writes:

In last night's conference call, Romero emphasized the fact that the military commissions process has been so haphazardly slapped together that even the judge didn't know how to proceed with a guilty plea, whether a death sentence could be imposed if the case wasn't heard by a "jury."

But even more disturbing to Romero, and what should be a red flag for the incoming Obama administration intent on shutting Guantanamo down, was the attempt to show that this proceeding was the actual equivalent of a real trial, a show put on for the visiting press and particularly a handful of 9/11 victims' family members to garner good PR for the military commissions process and for keeping Guantanmo open.

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