Omar Khadr's Trial Back Under Way at Gitmo, at Least Until a Plea Deal Works Out
Last January, we brought you the story of Omar Khadr, the youngest detainee and only Westerner held in Guantánamo Bay.
The Canadian-born Khadr was only 15 when U.S. troops shot and detained him in 2002 on an Afghan battlefield. Khadr later confessed to throwing a grenade that killed one medic and wounded another soldier but now contends that confession was won through torture.
When we wrote about Khadr's case last year, we said his case "represent[s] perhaps the new president's most difficult challenge: what to do with the men -- now further radicalized by torture -- who would almost certainly threaten Americans everywhere if released."
Guess what? Sixteen months later, it's still Obama's toughest challenge, and as Khadr's restarted trial clearly shows, the prez still doesn't know how to clean up Dubya's Gitmo mistakes.
First, let's start with the trial, which the Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg has been covering daily since it restarted last Wednesday. As under Bush, the military tribunal system is an absolute joke.
First, on Saturday, Army prosecutors cleared the courtroom and blacked out coverage of the trial to present video evidence against Khadr, this after prosecutor Jeffrey Groharing opened the trial by promising, "There will be no secret evidence."
And what exactly was this top-secret evidence worth shutting out reporters? Turns out it was interrogation video of Khadr made public in Canada years ago and widely available on YouTube, where the shut-out reporters promptly watched the tapes for themselves while locked out of the courthouse.
As if that whole display wasn't silly enough, on Sunday, an Army lieutenant openly admitted on the stand to altering a field report years after Khadr's arrest to directly implicate the Canadian in the grenade attack.
The officer's report initially indicated the grenade-throwing militant behind the attacks had been killed on the field. On the stand, he said "years later" he realized he was mistaken and changed the report "for the historical record."
Could you imagine testimony like that -- revolving around a key bit of evidence -- in a civilian court's criminal case? It's laughable.
Perhaps that's why, even as the trial marches on, Obama's administration is still frantically trying to work out a plea deal with Khadr that would send him back to Canada.
But even that solution is wrought with difficulties. Members of Khadr's family in Toronto have openly expressed admiration for anti-Western jihad, and no one is certain how radicalized the young man has become by years of isolation and torture at U.S. hands.
There's no easy solution for Obama now, just as there were no easy answers 16 months ago. Then, as now, if Obama can figure out what to do with Omar Khadr, the president might just have the key to finally clean up the entire Gitmo mess.