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"Your 'reality', sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever."
— Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von M√ľnchhausen

Torturing the Twentieth Hijacker

Mohammad al-Qahtani, the so-called "twentieth hijacker" is one of six key suspects that have been held and tortured at Guantanamo Bay since 9/11.

The reason for this, says the Bush Administration, is that we need to use every means at our disposal in order to gain information to safeguard our country from another attack like 9/11. After all, nothing says we're serious about the War on Abstractions like abandoning a thousand years of legal precedent and dunking terrorists like they're Salem witches.

Earlier this week, as reported by the Associated Press, the charges against al-Qahtani have been dropped. And while the government has not offered up a reason for this, it is widely suspected that they cannot move forward with their show trials because their evidence has been tainted by the use of torture.

But that's not the whole story, is it? There are still five other suspects being held and the government has already admitted to torturing them. So why drop the charges against this prisoner? The disqualification of Brigadier General Thomas W. Hartmann from participating in the case due to a lack of objectivity has now thrown the whole military tribunal system into doubt and lends force to its critics. Blogger emptywheel relates a communique with the Center for Constitutional Rights, who represent al-Qahtani:

The government is finally admitting what we have been saying all along, that the government's claims against our client were based on unreliable evidence obtained through torture at Guantanamo. Using torture to string together a web of so-called evidence is illegal, immoral and cannot be the basis for a fair trial.

Mr. al Qahtani never made a single statement that was not extracted through torture or the threat of torture. The unconscionable techniques used on him are well-documented and were authorized directly by the White House. His torture log is a shameful window onto the depravity of this administration and the depths to which they have been willing to sink.

Mr. al Qahtani should be returned to the custody of the Saudi government, where they have a system in place to maintain custody of any former Guantanamo detainee who presents a danger, as well as a strong rehabilitation program supervising those that are released.

The Military Commissions are sham political show trials designed to do nothing but obtain convictions for the government. Col. Moe Davis testified to that effect in the Hamdan proceedings, and the presiding judge removed the legal advisor to the Commissions, Col. Hartmann, just this week for undue political influence. The Military Commissions allow secret evidence, hearsay evidence, and evidence obtained through torture, which violates every international and domestic legal principle of due process and fair trials. They are designed to hide the criminal conduct of U.S. personnel and to obtain nothing but convictions. [emphasis original]

This is the latest in a series of challenges to the authority of the administration that has been holding its breath and stamping its feet all year. We may not be able to evict these criminals, but it looks like we can at least limit the amount of additional damage they can do. Torture is no way to "win hearts and minds".

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