Australian David Hicks pleaded guilty at the Guant‡namo Bay Navy Base yesterday to supporting terrorism in exchange for a nine-month prison sentence under a plea deal that forbids him from claiming he was abused in U.S. custody.Of course, why did Hicks enter a plea agreement, when he had one of the best criminal defense attorneys in Manhattan on his side? Because he didn't have him any more. One of those things laypeople call a "technicality." At least, when they don't like the outcome, that's what they call it:
In return, Hicks, 31, will be allowed to leave Guant‡namo within 60 days to serve out the sentence in his native Australia. He will be free by New Year's Eve.
"They told us this was one of the world's worst terrorists, and he got the sentence of a drunken driver," said Ben Wizner, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union.
The first serious cracks in the newly minted Military Commissions Act started to appear just two hours after Hicks entered the courtroom on Monday, when the judge disqualified two of Hicks' civilian defense attorneys.We are still not a country to let due process and equal protection get in the way of dealing with the world's worst terrorists. Or even a little thing like torture:
One of the disqualified lawyers was Joshua Dratel, a well-known Manhattan criminal defense attorney. Dratel has been on Hicks case since Hicks was first charged, about three years ago.
Under the new regulations, civilian lawyers are required to sign an agreement to abide by the new tribunal rules. But the military hasn't finished writing the rules. Dratel said he could not sign a blank check, documents that might commit him to regulations that have yet to be written.
So he withdrew from defending his client.
"It has never happened to me before," Dratel said. "It was unprecedented, in my experience, and unfortunate. It was not lightly done."
By the end of the hearing, Hicks was left with one military lawyer sitting at his defense table. A few hours later, court was suddenly reconvened and Hicks pleaded guilty.
His lawyers had predicted this might happen because Hicks felt the new trial process heavily favored the prosecution. They said Hicks was depressed and knew he could probably work out a deal to serve out the rest of his time in an Australian prison
Also yesterday, the Pentagon released transcripts from a March 14 hearing from a suspected Saudi terrorist held at Guant‡namo Bay.
Abd al Rahim al Nashiri told a military hearing that he was routinely tortured by his American jailers into falsely confessing that he was involved in the USS Cole bombing and that he claimed that Osama bin Laden had a nuclear bomb only to please his captors and stop the abuse.
"It happened during interviews. One time they tortured me one way, and another time they tortured me in a different way," al Nashiri said.
I feel so much safer. We shredded the Geneva Convention, tossed habeus corpus aside like a used kleenex, trampled every standard of justice, all on the advice of an Attorney General who is either a liar, incompetent, or both; and all we got was this lousy nine-month sentence for a guy Australia, our staunchest ally in this insane war, has been clamoring for.