Hamdan's Cooperation

According to the defense closing statement in the Hamdan trial, Hamdan cooperated with the U.S. in efforts to track down Osama bin Laden and identify other al Q'aeda operatives. (NY Times story here.) The govt responds that such cooperation (which prosecutors deem slight) is not, in any event, relevant to guilt or innocence. That's true. However, when we combine: 1) Hamdan's cooperation; 2) his relatively minor role as a driver/bodyguard (whether he was in al Q'aeda is disputed but let's concede arguendo that he was); and 3) the fact that even if he's acquitted, the government will continue to hold him as an enemy combatant, it's hard to figure out just what is being accomplished by this trial. The best I can guess is that trying Hamdan first is a way of beta testing the military commissions system, so that it can be ready for bigger fish. Except of course by the time that the bigger fish (many of whom remain at sea) would be ready for trial, there's a decent chance that a new Administration will have abandoned the military commissions entirely.

Posted by Mike Dorf