I am very pleased to announce that on his first day in office, Barack Obama moved to put a 120-day stop on the legal travesty that is the Guantanamo Bay military trial system:
GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, Jan. 20 -- In one of its first actions, the Obama administration instructed military prosecutors late Tuesday to seek a 120-day suspension of legal proceedings involving detainees at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- a clear break with the approach of the outgoing Bush administration.
The instruction came in a motion filed with a military court in the case of five defendants accused of organizing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. The motion called for "a continuance of the proceedings" until May 20 so that "the newly inaugurated president and his administration [can] review the military commissions process, generally, and the cases currently pending before military commissions, specifically."
The same motion was filed in another case scheduled to resume Wednesday, involving a Canadian detainee, and will be filed in all other pending matters.
Such a request may not be automatically granted by military judges, and not all defense attorneys may agree to such a suspension. But the move is a first step toward closing a detention facility and system of military trials that became a worldwide symbol of the Bush administration's war on terrorism and its unyielding attitude toward foreign and domestic critics.
This is particularly heartening in light of the many stories like this:
An FBI agent who previously testified Omar Khadr identified fellow Canadian Maher Arar as someone he saw at al-Qaeda safe houses and possibly training camps in Afghanistan acknowledged on Tuesday the teen's identification of the Ottawa software engineer did not happen as immediately as he first stated.
Robert Fuller made the admission during cross-examination by Khadr's defence team at Khadr's preliminary hearing at the U.S. military commission in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations agent testified on Tuesday that during an interrogation session in Afghanistan in 2002, Khadr came around to saying that on several occasions he had seen Arar, who was cleared of any links to terrorism by a Canadian public inquiry in 2006.
Khadr said he saw Arar at a safehouse in Kabul, and possibly at a training camp outside Kabul, Fuller said. Both facilities were run by al-Qaeda militant Abu Musab al-Siri.
But hey, it was all for a higher purpose, right?
Arar was detained in New York on Sept. 26, 2002, on his way home from a family vacation.
Fuller's first interrogation of Khadr about Arar occurred on Oct. 7, a day before U.S. officials sent Arar to Syria, where he was held for more than 10 months on suspicion of terrorist activity, and tortured.
Fuller testified he did not know whether the information he gleaned from Khadr played any role Arar's deportation to Syria.
The Syrian-born Canadian was later released and cleared of any connection to terrorism in 2006 by a Canadian commission that recommended he receive a $10.5-million settlement for the ordeal. The U.S., however, has refused to clear Arar's name.