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Justice Through The Looking Glass

The system determining the guilt or innocence of many prisoners still detained at Gitmo has long been haphazard. One prosecution recently collapsed because the judge was honest enough not to admit testimony procured through torture:

"The government has failed to prove that [the witness'] testimony is sufficiently attenuated from [Ahmed Khalfan] Ghailani's coerced statements to permit its receipt in evidence."

The defendant, however, accused of bombing US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, could still be indefinitely detained for life until the formal end of war between the US and al Qaeda. But the latest case is more surreal.

It involves one Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman, whose release from custody was ordered earlier this year by Judge Henry Kennedy Jr.

Kennedy effectively demolished the credibility of many government witnesses and pointed out big discrepancies in its case. The ruling was published, then suddenly withdrawn, then re-published with vast amounts of the ruling stricken from public view. The redactions were not solely to prevent release of classified information, but to omit the key findings of the case against the government. Some were obvious attempts to mislead. Money quote from a must-read, and disturbing story by ProPublica's Dafna Linzer:

The government maintains that Uthman was in Afghanistan to fight for bin Laden; Uthman has claimed he went there to teach the Quran to children. Some facts of his story are not in dispute, some critical ones are. They look different depending on which of Kennedy's two opinions you read. Kennedy's original opinion noted that Uthman was seized in Parachinar; that he reached the town after an eight-day trek from the Afghan town of Khost, nowhere near Tora Bora; and that his journey to Pakistan began around Dec. 8, 2001. Those facts make it difficult to portray Uthman as a fighter in a battle that took place between Dec. 12 and Dec. 17 at Tora Bora. Two footnotes in the original opinion note that the government does not contest that Uthman was taken into custody in Parachinar. Both were removed in the second opinion and Kennedy substituted wording to write instead that Uthman admitted he was seized "in late 2001 in the general vicinity of Tora Bora, Afghanistan."

This is not classification; it's deception. And it may well be the tip of the iceberg in the 48 cases where the US has decided that a prisoner cannot be prosecuted (torture taints everything; witnesses are highly unreliable or tortured themselves) but cannot either be released, for fear that if he weren't radicalized for terror before detention and torture, he sure is now.