Foreign Policy Blogs

Khalid Sheik Mohammed and others to face review at Gauntanamo Bay

The US announced that it will hold Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRT's) for 14 suspects transferred from "black sites' operated overseas by the Central Intelligence Agency. Among these detainees are Khalid Sheik Mohammed, alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a senior al-Qa'ida officer and member of the Hamburg cell implicated in the 9/11 attacks. The CSRT's are held, in accordance with the Supreme Courts ruling in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, in order to determine if the detainees should be tried before the military commissions established at Guantanamo Bay. The military commissions themselves were established in response to the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan v. Rumseld. (see previous orations on David M. Hicks)

Khalid Sheik Mohammed and others to face review at Gauntanamo BayThe Court in Hamdan reiterated that the purpose of military commissions was to try defendants for violations occurring during war time. In contention in much of the argument presented in Hamdan is what may be constituted a violation of the laws of war. Hamdan was charged with conspiracy, which the court did not find to be a violation of the laws of war. However, with the enactment of the Military Commissions Act (MCA) (itself a reaction to Hamdan), the Congress amended the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) to include conspiracy as a crime triable before military commissions; presumably making it a violation of the laws of war according to US law. Also noted in the opinion delivered by Justice Stevens in the Hamdan trial was the notion that customary international law requires that a defendant be allowed to see and hear the evidence against him.

The CSRT's regarding KSM et al will be closed to the public and defendants will have no access to legal representation or classified information. The transcripts of the CSRT's will also be heavily edited by the government. However, the CSRT's are only the first step to trail by the newly established military commissions in Guantanamo and presumably defendants will be granted legal counsel at that time. Several cases are circulating in the DC Circuit Court of Appeals regarding several of the detainees at Gauntanamo and many of the decisions regarding alleged war crimes, habeas claims, and other allegations will be ultimately settled by the Supreme Court. For example, the Supreme Court is expected to re-examine Hamdan, among others, possibly later this year.

SCOTUSblog has excellent commentary on the detainee issues here
National Public Radio has audio commentary here and here.

Special thanks to Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog for his expert advice and tutelage regarding the detainee cases. Thanks Lyle!



Daniel Graeber

Daniel Graeber is a writer for United Press International covering Iraq, Afghanistan and the broader Levant. He has published works on international and constitutional law pertaining to US terrorism cases and on child soldiers. His first major work, entitled The United States and Israel: The Implications of Alignment, is featured in the text, Strategic Interests in the Middle East: Opposition or Support for US Foreign Policy. He holds a MA in Diplomacy and International Conflict Management from Norwich University, where his focus was international relations theory, international law, and the role of non-state actors.

Areas of Focus:International law; Middle East; Government and Politics; non-state actors