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Chief GTMO Prosecutor Sees ‘Very Little Difference’ With How Courts Handle Classified Info

It faded from news coverage over the past few weeks, but when President Obama returns from Prague, he’ll have to make a decision 0n pressing forward to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in federal court, as his attorney general desires, or whether to move him into a military commission, as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) urges. The major rationale Graham has cited for the need to get the 9/11 architect out of criminal court is the courts’ inability to handle classified information. But now the chief prosecutor for the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay refutes that argument.

Adam Serwer of the American Prospect is at Guantanamo Bay to observe a commission, and he reports on a briefing he received about their procedure:

But in a conference call with reporters a few minutes ago, the chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo Bay Military Commissions, Cpt. John F. Murphy, said that there was little difference “as a practical matter” between dealing with classified information under CIPA and the new process outlined by the revised military commissions law.

“The new changes to our 505 bring it more into conformity with CIPA — it is closer to the CIPA process in federal court,” Captain Murphy said. “I would need to lay the two statues side-by-side to point out the differences.”

“As a practical matter, there’s very little difference between the two,” he said.

The only practical difference Adam can ascertain concerns a slight delay on the closed-circuit TV feed from the trials into the observation room. On such differences hinge, substantively, the political opposition to trying a terrorist in a venue with nearly 400 terrorism-related convictions as opposed to a venue with three.

Attorney General Eric Holder will next get a chance to press his case publicly on Wednesday, when he testifies to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and then on Thursday, when he speaks to the Constitution Project’s annual dinner.

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