On Wednesday, a military jury at Guantanamo Bay found Osama bin Laden’s former driver, Salim Hamdan, guilty of material support for terrorism in the first “contested” U.S. military war crimes trial since World War II. Hamdan was acquitted of other charges against him, including conspiracy to commit terrorist attacks.
Responding to the decision, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) released a statement welcoming the guilty verdict:
The jury found that the prosecution lawyers had proven, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Hamdan had aided terrorists by supplying weapons to Al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan. This process demonstrated that military commissions can effectively bring very dangerous terrorists to justice. The fact that the jury did not find Hamdan guilty of all of the charges brought against him demonstrates that the jury weighed the evidence carefully.
But McCain has his facts wrong when he claims Hamdan was found guilty of “supplying weapons to al Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan.” Though Hamdan was in possession of two shoulder-launched missiles when he was captured in Afghanistan, “the jury found him innocent of carrying the missiles as part of a conspiracy to kill U.S. soldiers.” The AP writes:
While being convicted of supporting terrorism, Hamdan was acquitted of providing missiles to al-Qaida and knowing his work would be used for terrorism. He also was cleared of being part of al-Qaida’s conspiracy to attack the United States — the most serious charges he faced.
Former Justice Department lawyer Marty Lederman notes that “in theory” supplying weapons “could have been the basis for the guilty verdict” on material support. But, he writes, “it is fairly plain” from the acquittals on the specific weapons charges that “the basis for the verdict of guilt was Hamdan’s conduct as driver and body guard, not his supplying of any weapons to al Qaeda and the Taliban.”
For more on the Hamdan decision, read today’s Progress Report.