Right Before Khadr Hearing Starts, Gov’t Offers Plea Deal
GUANTANAMO BAY — There were doubts, after yesterday’s late-breaking release of the Manual for military commissions, whether this morning’s pre-trial hearing to suppress Omar Khadr’s statements to interrogators would go forward at all. Now, the hearing’s about to get underway — whether Col. Pat Parrish, the military judge in Khadr’s commission, will order a delay when it does, is a different story — but it begins with a different surprise.
Michelle Shephard of the Toronto Star scoops the rest of us here by reporting that the government offered Khadr’s lawyers a plea deal: five years on top of the seven years the Canadian citizen has already done at Guantanamo and Bagram. Khadr’s defense counsel turned down the deal. Breakfast conversation among reporters was garnished with speculation about whether the rejected plea offer means the prosecutors at the Defense Department’s Office of Military Commissions think they can’t win the suppression hearing — meaning a lot of evidence against Khadr wouldn’t be entered into court when his military commission properly begins in July — or that they don’t want the flagship case of the Obama era to be one against a defendant captured and mistreated when he was 15 years old.
Either way, we’re about to get going here. The press still does not have the Manual. We do, however, have 2007-era copies of protective orders preventing us from reporting “identifying information of intelligence personnel” in the event Khadr’s interrogators testify — or, for that matter, the “names or other identifying information” of seemingly any witnesses. (Yes, these are protective orders flowing from the 2006 Military Commissions Act that the Supreme Court struck down.) So get ready for some “Witness #1″ descriptions!