Palin Adviser Wanted Execution Without Trial For Convicted Terrorist Ahmed Ghailani

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

A Federal District Court in Manhattan convicted Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani yesterday on one count of of conspiracy for the 1998 terror bombings of U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. While Ghailani — the first former Guantanamo detainee to be tried in civilian court — was acquitted of more than 280 other charges, he faces 20 years to life in prison.

On cue, conservatives are outraged at the result of the trial (even though he’ll spend time in a maximum security prison for least 20 years), claiming he should have been tried in a military tribunal. Liz Cheney’s group Keep America Safe claimed that “bad ideas have dangerous consequences. … We urge the president: End this reckless experiment. Reverse course. Use the military commissions at Guantanamo that Congress has authorized.” (The Center for American Progress’ Ken Gude notes on the Wonk Room that military commissions “deliver shorter sentences than civilian courts” and “the minimum sentence that Ghailani can receive is longer than the combined sentences” of three of the four detainees who have been convicted in military commissions.)

Yet some have taken the opportunity to take the issue a bit further. On Twitter yesterday, Michael Goldfarb, former McCain presidential campaign flack and current adviser to former governor Sarah Palin, said that Ghailani should have been executed while in CIA custody:

Maybe Goldfarb has taken Glenn Beck’s advice a little too seriously. The radical Fox News host once said that as President, he wouldn’t detain terror suspects, he’d “shoot them all in the head.” Perhaps Goldfarb is an avid National Review reader, where one write once said that all Gitmo detainees should be let go and then killed. Or maybe Goldfarb has been listening to his former boss over at the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol, who said last year of Maj. Nidal M. Hasan after his attack on the Fort Hood Army Base: “They should just go ahead and convict him and put him to death.”

It seems execution without trial is fairly popular in conservative circles.

ThinkProgress

The Civilian Trial of Terrorist Ghailani: ‘They Came Within a Hair’s Breadth of Losing the Case Entirely’

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

A jury in federal court in Manhattan convicted Ahmed Ghalfan Ghailani Wednesday of conspiring in the 1998 destruction of the United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Many, however, are focusing on Ghailani’s acquittal on 224 counts of murder and attempted murder; and asking what effect, if any, it should have on the location of future trials for al-Qaida terrorists.

Ghailani was indicted on December 16, 1998 for conspiring with Osama bin Laden and other members of al-Qaida to carry out the twin bombings in Africa on August 7, 1998. The attacks killed 224 people, including 12 Americans. Suicide bombers driving large truck bombs packed with approximately 1,000 pounds of TNT attacked each embassy. Ghailani purchased the truck as well as tanks of oxygen and acetylene gas that were used in the bombing.

In 2004, Ghailani was captured in Pakistan and sent to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Defense attorneys argued that Ghailani spent five years in the custody of the Central Intelligence Agency which reportedly tortured him. U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan disallowed government prosecutors from introducing evidence or witnesses that were obtained during the alleged torture.

While U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara would presumably have preferred guilty counts on all charges, Ghailani’s defense attorneys praised the result. “This verdict is a reaffirmation that this nation’s judicial system is the greatest ever devised,” said Peter E. Quijano. “It is truly a system of laws and not men, where, in the shadow of the World Trade Center, this jury acquitted Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani of 284 out of 285 counts.”

Discussing the political implications of the verdict, Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and Bobby Chesney, a law professor at the University of Texas, explain “the only thing that will matter in the political sphere will be that prosecutors won a conviction on only one of 285 criminal counts—that they came within a hair’s breadth of losing the case entirely.”

Indeed, the verdict already is being used to highlight the insufficiency of civilian trials for suspected al Qaida terrorists. U.S. Representative Pete King, R-NY, who is promising to hold hearings on the issue, attacked the verdict as a “total miscarriage of justice” and said it demonstrates the “absolute insanity of the Obama Administration’s decision to try al-Qaida terrorists in civilian courts.”

What effect the verdict will have on the Obama Administration’s efforts to prosecute al-Qaida militants remains to be seen. Of particular interest will be whether the result will make the administration gun-shy to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammad in civilian court. Last week Attorney General Eric Holder said the government is “close to a decision on the venue for the prosecution” of the self-described mastermind of the September 11 attacks.

Ghailani is scheduled to be sentenced on January 25 and faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison. U.S. Attorney Bharara has promises that “he will face, and we will seek, the maximum sentence of life without parole when he is sentenced.”

Big Peace

Terrorism Show Trial Ends With Near-Complete Acquittal

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

A man who, up until recently, was being held detained at Guantanamo Bay has been acquitted by a New York jury on all but one charge related to the bombing of two American embassies in Africa twelve years ago:

The first former Guantánamo detainee to be tried in a civilian court was acquitted on Wednesday of all but one of more than 280 charges of conspiracy and murder in the 1998 terrorist bombings of the United States Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The case has been seen as a test of President Obama’s goal of trying detainees in federal court whenever feasible, and the result seems certain to fuel debate over whether civilian courts are appropriate for trying terrorists.

The defendant, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, 36, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to destroy government buildings and property. He was acquitted of four counts of conspiracy, including conspiring to kill Americans and to use weapons of mass destruction.

Because of the unusual circumstances of Mr. Ghailani’s case — after he was captured in Pakistan in 2004, he was held for nearly five years in a so-called black site run by the Central Intelligence Agency and at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — the prosecution faced significant legal hurdles even getting his case to trial.

On the eve of Mr. Ghailani’s trial last month, the government lost a key ruling that may have seriously damaged its chances of winning convictions.

In the ruling, the judge, Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan, barred prosecutors from using an important witness against Mr. Ghailani because the government had learned about the man through Mr. Ghailani’s interrogation while he was in C.I.A. custody, where his lawyers say he was tortured.

The witness, Hussein Abebe, would have testified that he had sold Mr. Ghailani the TNT used to blow up the embassy in Dar es Salaam, prosecutors told the judge, calling him “a giant witness for the government.”

Without that testimony, there was no evidence to present to the jury tying Ghailani to the actual attacks on the embassy and the deaths of over 200 people. While many commentators seem to be taking this verdict as evidence that Ghailani should have been tried before a military tribunal rather than in a civilian court, there’s a fairly good chance that the outcome would have been the same:

The current rules governing those military tribunals bar the use of torture-obtained evidence to roughly the same extent as real courts do. Anyone who doubts that should simply read Rule 304(a)(1) and (5) of the Military Commissions Manual, found on page 205 of the document:

[304(a)(1)]  No statement, obtained by the use of torture, or by cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. . . . whether or not under color of law, shall be admissible in a trial by military commission . . . .

[304(a)(5)] Evidence derived from a statement that would be excluded under section (a)(1) of this rule may not be received in evidence against an accused who made the statement if the accused makes a timely motion to suppress or an objection . . . .

The only exceptions to those exclusionary rules are essentially identical to those used in the judicial system, which were applied by Judge Kaplan but found to be inapplicable (“the evidence would have been obtained even if the statement had not been made; or [] use of such evidence would otherwise be consistent with the interests of justice”).

So, even if Ghalani had been tried in a military court as many critics of the Obama Administration’s civilian trial strategy are suggesting, it’s likely that the evidence obtained by torture would have been excluded there as well and that the verdict would have been substantially similar.

Nonetheless, it does seem that the outcome of this trial puts that entire strategy in doubt. If Ghailani can be nearly acquitted because one piece of crucial evidence was obtained via unconstitutional methods, then surely that could also be a possible outcome in a civilian trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times while in the custody of the CIA. As Allahpundit notes, there’s simply no way that the Obama Administration, or any President for that matter, is going to take the risk that a high value detainee like KSM would be partially, or fully, acquitted in a civilian court:

The Times piece tries to put a happy face on this for the White House, noting that the court sided with the feds in rulings before the trial that detention at Gitmo didn’t violate Ghailani’s right to a speedy trial and that enhanced interrogation didn’t warrant dismissal of the charges. In theory, that clears the way for trying other terrorists in civilian court. But in practice, it’s purely academic: Ain’t no way, no how, no chance the DOJ will risk an acquittal by bringing another high-ranking terrorist to trial in a district court. They might do it for no-name operatives, where the fallout from a “not guilty” verdict wouldn’t be totally disastrous, but the great national debate about whether to try KSM in a military court or in Manhattan is now well and truly over. In case it wasn’t already.

Indeed. While the odds that there would be any jurisdiction in the United States that would willingly accept a high profile terrorist like KSM, the outcome of the Ghailani case makes it clear that neither Mohammed, nor any other high ranking al Qaeda suspect will ever see the inside of a civilian courtroom. That doesn’t mean, however, that any of them will ever be released:

The judge himself recognized the significance of excluding the witness when he said in his ruling that Mr. Ghailani’s status of “enemy combatant” probably would permit his detention as something akin “to a prisoner of war until hostilities between the United States and Al Qaeda and the Taliban end, even if he were found not guilty.”

As Glenn Greenwald notes, the Obama Administration has already made clear that this is exactly what would happen to Ghailani, and presumably to any other detainee who managed to “beat” the civilian or military justice systems:

But even had he been acquitted on all counts, the Obama administration had made clear that it would simply continue to imprison him anyway under what it claims is the President’s “post-acquittal detention power”i.e., when an accused Terrorist is wholly acquitted in court, he can still be imprisoned indefinitely by the U.S. Government under the “law of war” even when the factual bases for the claim that he’s an “enemy combatant” (i.e. that he blew up the two embassies) are the same ones underlying the crimes for which he was fully acquitted after a full trial.

(…)

Most news accounts are emphasizing that trying Ghailani in a civilian court was intended by the Obama DOJ to be a “showcase” for how effective trials can be in punishing Terrorists.  That’s a commendable goal, and Holder’s decision to try Ghailani in a real court should be defended by anyone who believes in the rule of law and the Constitution.  But given these realities, this was more “show trial” than “showcase” since the Government would simply have imprisoned him, likely forever, even if he had been acquitted on all counts.

Greenwald is largely correct here. Whether they are tried in a civilian or a military court, none of the high-level al Qaeda suspects currently in custody are going to be freed at any point in the conceivable future. That makes the entire idea of trying them in any venue little more than a sham, as Jonah Goldberg noted last year:

Every day it appears more and more that the White House wants it both ways. They want to claim that this is a fair trial but also an act of venegeance. The terrorists will be treated as if they might be innocent — key to a fair trial — but at the end of the day they’ll get their comeuppance. If KSM & Co. get off on a technicality, don’t worry, they’ll still be locked up, but when they’re convicted the White House will claim it was always a fair process. They’ll get a fair trial from an impartial jury in New York, but it’s “fitting” and “poetic justice” that the jury will be drawn from the community that was viciously attacked on 9/11. Fair but vengeul, honest but foreordained, instructive to the world but really just about the law: The rhetoric from the White House and the Democrats isn’t persuasive to those who listen closely and certainly won’t be persuasive to foreigners Obama is determined to impress.

The point of all of this is to show that the rule of law is intact, but what the White House is doing is in fact undermining the legitimacy of the legal system by having it do something it shouldn’t. Obama, Pat Leahy, and the rest preen as if they are morally superior for preferring civilian courts, but what they are doing is undermining civilian courts, and it gets worse every time they open their mouths.

I don’t like the idea of indefinitely detaining people without some prospect of judicial review to determine whether or not they there is a legitimate reason to detain them, but I like even less the idea of the justice system being used to “send a signal” when it’s clear that the outcome in Court will have absolutely no impact on whether or not someone continues to be held in detention. That’s not justice, it’s a Stalinist show trial.




Outside the Beltway

Republicans Attack Obama Administration Over Terror Trial Outcome

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

A federal jury’s decision to find a former Guantanamo Bay detainee guilty on just one count and acquit him on more than 280 other charges has quickly renewed conservative criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of terrorism cases.

“Bad ideas have dangerous consequences,” Liz Cheney, Debra Burlingame and William Kristol of Keep America Safe said in a statement issued shortly after the decision came down. “The Obama Administration recklessly insisted on a civilian trial for Ahmed Ghailani, and rolled the dice in a time of war. The Department of Justice says it’s pleased by the verdict. Ask the families of the victims if they’re pleased. And this result isn’t just embarrassing. It’s dangerous. It signals weakness in a time of war.”

Several incoming Republican House leaders including Lamar Smith (TX), Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (CA) and Peter King (NY) also jumped on the outcome to criticize the administration. So has a Senator who at one time was thought to be a potential ally in the administration’s effort to close Guantanamo: “Members of the organization, and their associates, should be treated as warriors, not common criminals,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). He added, “We put our nation at risk by criminalizing the war. Going forward, I once again strongly encourage the Obama Administration to use military commissions to prosecute enemy combatants, particularly the 9/11 conspirators like Khalid Sheik Mohammad, held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.”

But even though he was just found guilty on one count of conspiracy, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani’s prosecutors will seek the maximum sentence of life without parole, said Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. A DOJ spokesman said Ghailani faces a minimum of 20 years in prison.

The Obama administration has come out in defense of the verdict. One administration official told ABC News that it would have been “better optically if he had been convicted of more counts,” but said it wouldn’t have made any practical difference.

“So, we tried a guy (who the Bush Admin tortured and then held at GTMO for 4-plus years with no end game whatsoever) in a federal court before a NY jury with full transparency and international legitimacy and — despite all of the legacy problems of the case (i.e., evidence getting thrown out because of Bush-Admin torture, etc,) we were STILL able to convict him and INCAPACITATE him for essentially the rest of his natural life, AND there was not one — not one — security problem associated with the trial,” a senior administration official told Jake Tapper (emphasis theirs).

Liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights First and the Center for Constitutional Rights have also come to the defense of the federal court system. One of the groups pointed out that it was actually the Bush-era torture of Ghailani weakened the case against him.

“If anyone is unsatisfied with Ghailani’s acquittal on 284 counts, they should blame the CIA agents who tortured him,” the Center for Constitutional Rights said in a statement. “CCR questions the ability of anyone who is Muslim to receive a truly fair trial in any American judicial forum post-9/11. Both the military commission system and federal criminal trials have serious flaws. However, on balance the Ghailani verdict shows that federal criminal trials are far superior to military commissions for the simple yet fundamental reason that they prohibit evidence obtained by torture.”

They have also rejected the notion that the outcome represented a failure for the Obama administration.

“Al Capone was put away for tax evasion, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t in jail,” said Human Rights First.







TPMMuckraker

Civilian Trial Travesty … Gitmo Terrorist Detainee Ahmed Ghailani Acquitted of All Charges But One

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Thank you President Barack Hussein Obama and AG Eric Holder … NOT!

I think it is safe to say this will be the end of terrorists being tried in civilian court. The Obama-Holder test terrorist civilian case just blew up in their face. It is yet just another example that this crew has not a clue as to what they are doing.

Gitmo terrorist suspect detainee Ahmed Ghailani was acquitted by a just in civilian court of all charges except one yesterday. UNREAL. A special shout out to Barack and Holder for having the infinite wisdom to try this case in civilian court and have this travesty occur. 

Ghailani was found him guilty on one count of conspiracy to destroy US property while the jury completely ignored the 224 people murdered when that property was destroyed. Words cannot even begin to express the outrage. YET ANOTHER OBAMA FAILURE! Let’s get this straight America, the war on terrorism is not a crime … it’s a WAR!

The first former Guantanamo Bay detainee to be tried in federal criminal court was found guilty on a single conspiracy charge Wednesday but cleared on 284 other counts. The outcome, a surprise, seriously undermines – and could doom – the Obama administration’s plans to put other Guantanamo detainees on trial in U.S. civilian courts.

After deliberating for five days, a jury of six men and six women found Ahmed Ghailani, 36, guilty of conspiracy to damage or destroy U.S. property but acquitted him of multiple murder and attempted-murder charges for his role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa.

The Obama administration had hoped that a conviction on most, if not all, of the charges would help clear the way for federal prosecutions of other Guantanamo detainees – including Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators accused of organizing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The administration did not want to rely exclusively on the military commissions that the George W. Bush administration had made a centerpiece of its detention policy.

Comments from the Jawa Report and Rusty pretty much say it all … Ditto Rusty.

I was willing to give Holder and Obama a shot at this. Some liberals had made a good point by saying that every single terrorist trial held in the US had gone the government’s way. So I thought it was unwise, but since the process was untested then why not give it a shot?

Well, it just blew up in your face, didn’t it Sparky?

 What did the Obama lackeys at the DOJ have to say following the verdict? The DOJ tweets that they are please, from the Ace of Spades.

“We respect the jury’s verdict and are pleased that Ahmed Ghailani now faces a minimum of 20 years in prison and a potential life sentence for his role in the embassy bombings,” the department said in a brief statement.

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Scared Monkeys

Senior Administration Official Defends Ghailani Trial, Verdict

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Though some critics and observers are suggesting the Ghailani verdict — he was acquited of all but one of more than 280 charges — weakens the president’s call for civilian criminal trials for Guantanamo detainees, a senior administration official pushes back:



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Political Punch

Geller: The lesson of the Ghailani trial fiasco

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Could the Guardian be waking up? Today they’ve run a piece by Pamela Geller on the Ghailani trial that, with its commonsensical, reasonable approach, differs sharply from that publication’s usual editorial line. “The lesson of Ghailani’s trial fiasco,” by Pamela Geller in the Guardian, November 18:

Rubble of US embassy in Nairobi after 1998 bombing A woman is carried from the rubble of the US embassy in Nairobi in August 1998 after it was bombed by al-Qaida. At his trial in New York, 17 November 2010, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was found guilty on a single charge of conspiracy for his role in the attack.

On Wednesday, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the first Guantánamo detainee to be tried in civilian court in New York, was acquitted of all but one charge, that of conspiracy for his role in jihadist terror bombings in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam, which killed 224 people. His acquittal is the first poisonous fruit of Obama’s policy of treating acts of war as law enforcement issues. It also shows what is wrong with doing so.

Apparently, the evidence charging him with 224 counts of murder could not be used in court, because “coercive” techniques were used to get information from him. The jury did find him guilty of “conspiracy to destroy government buildings”. So, the al-Qaida terrorist killed 224 people and he’s guilty of… destruction of public property?

This is a serious setback for the US – another breathtaking failure on the part of the Obama administraton, yet again putting Americans and national security at risk.

Yet, former prosecutor and executive director of Human Rights Watch Kenneth Roth has argued that such trials, including the trial of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, should be in New York, since “the victims’ families have a right to witness these trials.” Yet, on 11 September 2001, all of America was under attack, not just the 9/11 families – it was an act of war against the United States of America.

Roth claims that “by choosing a federal court over the discredited military commissions, the US would show that it values the rule of law, trying even those accused of the worst crimes in a system that is broadly recognised as fair.” In reality, by choosing a federal court, we are once again refusing to address the root cause. By pretending that these attacks were not intended to take down America, and work toward overthrowing the government and installing a Sharia-based Islamic government, we yet again surrender to Islamic supremacism and imperialism.

There have been close to 20,000 documented Islamist-inspired attacks worldwide since 9/11; all were inspired by the same Islamic jihadi ideology and given the imprimatur of a Muslim cleric. This is war. It takes incomprehensible delusion and a denial of objective reality to think that combatants in that war are comparable to civilian criminals and should be tried in the same way….

Read it all.

Jihad Watch

The DoJ’s Civil Trial Balloon Pops

November 17, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

**Written by Doug Powers

With a presidential election less than two years away, we’ve almost certainly seen the first and last of the idiotic civil trials for “man caused disaster suspects” for a while, thanks to this close shave:

NEW YORK (AP) – The first Guantanamo detainee to face a civilian trial was acquitted Wednesday of all but one of the hundreds of charges he helped unleash death and destruction on two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 – an opening salvo in al-Qaida’s campaign to kill Americans.

A federal jury convicted Ahmed Ghailani of one count of conspiracy to destroy U.S. property and acquitted him on more than 280 other counts, including one murder count for each of the 224 people killed in the embassy bombings. The anonymous jurors deliberated over seven days.

Prosecutors said Ghailani faces a minimum of 20 years and a maximum of life in prison at sentencing on Jan. 25.
[…]
The trial at a lower Manhattan courthouse had been viewed as a possible test case for President Barack Obama administration’s aim of putting other terror detainees – including self-professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba – on trial on U.S. soil.

Ghailani’s prosecution also demonstrated some of the constitutional challenges the government would face if that happens. On the eve of his trial last month, the judge barred the government from calling a key witness because the witness had been identified while Ghailani was being held at a secret CIA camp where harsh interrogation techniques were used.

The Obama Justice Department said they were “pleased” with the outcome, but in baseball terminology, they barely avoided being no-hit because they got a bloop single. If they’re “pleased” about anything it’s that they didn’t end up looking like total asses.

As for other man-caused-disaster suspects facing civil trial, about a year ago, Eric Holder blew off questions concerning what would happen if Khalid Sheik Mohammed or any of the other 9/11 defendants were found not guilty in a civil court:

Attorney General Eric Holder brushed off the question, saying, “I would not have authorized the bringing of these prosecutions unless I thought that the outcome — in the outcome we would ultimately be successful. I will say that I have access to information that has not been publicly released that gives me great confidence that we will be successful in the prosecution of these cases in federal court.”

Talk about being counter-productive to Obama’s stated goal going in. The case made by Obama during his campaign was that the military justice system had been so corrupted by years of Bush abuse that no “man-caused disaster suspect” in U.S. custody could possibly get a fair military trial. But at the same time, Holder was open in stating that only those who were certain convictions would be granted access to US civil courts.

It’s ironic that Team Obama’s answer to distancing themselves from Bush’s alleged Gitmo kangaroo court system was to grant US civil court access only to those defendants who met the criteria of the DoJ’s politically driven and/or naive preconceived trial outcome. Now even their “sure things” aren’t so sure.

Amateur hour is about to enter its third year.

**Written by Doug Powers

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

Michelle Malkin

New York: First Gitmo detainee to face civilian trial acquitted of all but one charge

November 17, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

He worked for Osama bin Laden. He had a blasting cap in his room, and bought the gas tanks used in the truck bomb. And he is acquitted of everything but conspiracy.

This case shows how unequipped civilian courts are to deal with cases like this. “Gitmo detainee acquitted of all but 1 charge in NY,” by Tom Hays for The Associated Press, November 17 (thanks to Sr. Soph):

NEW YORK — The first Guantanamo detainee to face a civilian trial was acquitted Wednesday of most charges he helped unleash death and destruction on two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 – an opening salvo in al-Qaida’s campaign to kill Americans.

A federal jury convicted Ahmed Ghailani of one count of conspiracy and acquitted him of all other counts, including murder and murder conspiracy, in the embassy bombings. The anonymous federal jury deliberated over seven days, with a juror writing a note to the judge saying she felt threatened by other jurors.

Prosecutors had branded Ghailani a cold-blooded terrorist. The defense portrayed him as a clueless errand boy, exploited by senior al-Qaida operatives and framed by evidence from contaminated crime scenes.

The trial at a lower Manhattan courthouse had been viewed as a possible test case for President Barack Obama administration’s aim of putting other terror detainees – including self-professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba – on trial on U.S. soil.

Ghailani’s prosecution also demonstrated some of the constitutional challenges the government would face if that happens. On the eve of his trial last month, the judge barred the government from calling a key witness because the witness had been identified while Ghailani was being held at a secret CIA camp where harsh interrogation techniques were used….

Prosecutors had alleged Ghailani helped an al-Qaida cell buy a truck and components for explosives used in a suicide bombing in his native Tanzania on Aug. 7, 1998. The attack in Dar es Salaam and a nearly simultaneous bombing in Nairobi, Kenya, killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.

The day before the bombings, Ghailani boarded a one-way flight to Pakistan under an alias, prosecutors said. While on the run, he spent time in Afghanistan as a cook and bodyguard for Osama bin Laden and later as a document forger for al-Qaida, authorities said….

“This is Ahmed Ghailani. This is al-Qaida. This is a terrorist. This is a killer,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry Chernoff said in closing arguments.

The jury heard a former al-Qaida member who has cooperated with the government describe how bin Laden took the group in a more radical direction with a 1998 fatwa, or religious edict, against Americans….

A prosecutor read aloud the fatwa, which called on Muslims to rise up and “kill the Americans and plunder their money wherever and whenever they can find it.”

Other witnesses described how Ghailani bought gas tanks used in the truck bomb with cash supplied by the terror group, how the FBI found a blasting cap stashed in his room at a cell hideout and how he lied to family members about his escape, telling them he was going to Yemen to start a new life….

“Call him a fall guy. Call him a pawn,” lawyer Peter Quijano said in his closing argument. “But don’t call him guilty.”

Quijano argued the investigation in Africa was too chaotic to produce reliable evidence. He said local authorities and the FBI “trampled all over” unsecured crime scenes during searches in Tanzania.

Jihad Watch

First Civilian Trial Of Gitmo Detainee Results In Just One Guilty Finding

November 17, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

The low profile trial of the first Guantanamo Bay detainee in civilian court ended late Wednesday with the jury finding the accused terrorist guilty on just one count, a result sure to fuel criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of terrorism cases.

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani stood charged by the Justice Department of conspiring to kill Americans in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.

After seven days of deliberations, a jury found Ghailani guilty of just one count of conspiracy, acquitting him of multiple other counts including murder and murder conspiracy, said the Associated Press.

Reached by TPM, Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd had no immediate comment but said DOJ would have a statement shortly.*

A judge had ruled to exclude testimony from a witness because investigators only learned about the witness after the suspected terrorist underwent coercive interrogation in a secret CIA prison. Liz Cheney blamed that ruling on the Obama administration’s decision to try Ghailani in federal court. The Justice Department ultimately decided not to appeal the decision because doing so would cause “a delay of uncertain, and perhaps significant, length.”

Ghailani was accused of serving as a bodyguard, cook and document forger for Osama bin Laden. Captured in Pakistan in 2004, he was reportedly held in a secret CIA prison for two years before being transferred to Gitmo in 2006. He was sent to New York City for his trial in the summer of 2009. He allegedly acknowledged meeting bin Laden and receiving al Qaeda military training, but denied being a member of al Qaeda.

Late Update: “We respect the jury’s verdict and are pleased that Ahmed Ghailani now faces a minimum of 20 years in prison and a potential life sentence for his role in the embassy bombings,” Justice Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.







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