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Captain Kangaroo’s Wacky Guantanamo War-Crimes Trials

Speaking of kangaroo courts, Josh White had a great piece in the Washington Post yesterday about the military tribunals, known as military commissions, currently underway for the 9/11 conspirators held at Guantanamo. (The Justice Dept. is taking the position that last week’s Boumediene ruling doesn’t affect the tribunals.) The cases against them are, in many respects, predicated on classified information. A basic feature of any adversarial system of justice — and particularly, you know, ours — is that the accused has the right to view the evidence against him or her. Oh well.

Though the top legal adviser for the commissions process, Air Force Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann, has said that the trials would be “fair, just and transparent” and that detainees would have full access to the evidence against them, Pentagon officials have now backed off of those claims. The Office of Military Commissions said last week that defendants representing themselves might not get access to information about their interrogators and that secret information might have to be redacted in order to be shared with them.

“If classified information is presented to the jury, the accused will see it, no exceptions,” according to the Office of Military Commissions’ written responses to Washington Post questions about how the military commissions will deal with classified evidence in the Sept. 11 case. But a further explanation reveals that classified contents of certain materials could be replaced by summaries and blacked-out documents. “It is possible that an accused representing himself will not be able to directly review some evidence; in such circumstances, his standby defense counsel might be involved.”

It is unclear, however, what role the standby counsel would be allowed to play and how far the judge would let him go in cooperating in their client’s defense. Mohammed, Tawfiq bin Attash and Ali Abdul Aziz Ali have been approved to represent themselves at trial; Ramzi Binalshibh and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi have hearings pending to determine their competency to do so.

Get ready for another Supreme Court case.

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