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Scenes From a Forthcoming Comedy of Errors

I just had to pass along the following exchange from yesterday’s Pentagon press briefing on the impending military trials of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and five other 9/11 conspirators:

Q: One of the problems in the previous commission hearings down at Guantanamo is that some of the defendants did not have the right to call their own witnesses. Are you saying it will be different in these cases, and that if they call witnesses from overseas, for example, does that mean the U.S. government will the pick them up, pay for them and bring them to the court? How does that work?

GEN. HARTMANN: They have the right to call witnesses, including expert witnesses. To the extent that they’re available at Guantanamo, it’s a little easier. To the extent that they’re somewhere else in the world, we would, subject to the judge’s direction, make the appropriate effort to obtain them, to the extent that they’re available.

Those are factors that apply. Also the judge has to decide if they’re material and relevant to the case. So the judge will make a determination, once the case begins, as to whether a witness is material, relevant and whether the witness should be available. Or the witness can be made available by remote means, by deposition, by video, by phone.

Q: So it’s conceivable that one of these defendants could call Osama bin Laden as a witness.

GEN. HARTMANN: I suppose. It’s conceivable.

Q: General, along those lines, has there been any thought about charging Osama bin Laden at military commission, even though he is not in custody?

GEN. HARTMANN: Not that I’m aware of.

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