“Bye, bye!”

After years of wrangling by the Bush administration to have Osama bin Laden’s driver and bodyguard declared an enemy combatant, a U.S. military jury in Guantanamo Bay has now decided upon the fate of Salim Hamdan. All I’m going to say is apparently SKATES are now part of a detainee’s prison uniform:

Salim Hamdan’s sentence of 5 1/2 years, including five years and a month already served at Guantanamo Bay, fell far short of the life sentence he could have gotten for aiding terrorism by driving and guarding bin Laden. It now goes for mandatory review to a Pentagon official who can shorten the sentence but not extend it.

For some background on the charges against Hamdan, here’s a little rap sheet from the Summary of evidence memo presented during the Combatant Status Review Tribunal:


a. Detainee is a member of Al-Qaeda.

  1. Detainee admits that he served as a personal driver to Usama Bin Laden (UBL) both before and after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
  2. In addition to serving as UBL’s driver, detainee served as a member of UBL’s bodyguard detachment and armed himself with a weapon.
  3. In the above roles, detainee gained substantial knowledge of al Qaida operations and came in contact with a number of highly placed al Qaida figures, such as Abu Hafs [sic], Saif Al Adel [sic] (al Qaida Security Chief), and Abu Zabaydah [sic].
  4. One of detainee’s known aliases was on a list of captured al Qaida members that was discovered on a computer hard drive associated with a senior Al-Qaida member.

b. Detainee engaged in hostilities against the US or its coalition partners.

  1. While detainee denies ever personally receiving training at the Al-Farouq training camp, he admits transporting UBL there, so UBL could provide training and lectures to al Qaida trainees.
  2. Detainee was captured in a vehicle by Northern Alliance forces in the vicinity of Kandahar in possession of a weapon.


The prosecution was trying to assert that Hamden’s role as bin Laden’s driver made him in essence a co-conspirator in the 9/11 terrorist attacks that were planned and executed during his employment. Hamdan’s explanation:

Hamdan admitted he drove bin Laden around Afghanistan at the time of the 2001 attacks, but said he took the job without knowing the al-Qaida leader was a terrorist. It came as “a big shock,” he said, when he learned bin Laden was responsible for the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, where Hamdan is from.

Uh… Right.

Incidentally, the CIA has spent YEARS trying in vain to penetrate al-Qaeda’s upper ranks.  Who would have known all it took to cozy up to the most wanted terrorist in the world was to answer a “Driver Wanted” ad in the newspaper. That and a little “Durka Durka” and you’re in the door…

Hamdan’s account conflicts with that of FBI interrogator Ali Soufan. According to Time Magazine:

… Soufan said he was undeniably part of the al-Qaeda conspiracy, pointing out that Hamdan swore a bayat, or oath of loyalty, to bin Laden.

And I imagine this oath of loyalty went a little further than a pinky swear. To put it in better perspective, here is a Moroccan-born French intelligence informant’s account of how difficult it was for him to infiltrate an al Qaeda training camp. From The Raw Story:

Every moment of my existence was a test, every little answer, every little movement,” the informant, who wrote of his experience under the pseudonym Omar Nasiri, told Whitlock of his time in the camps. “You had to show complete devotion to the cause. If someone does all this to blend in, even if it is deception, the risk is that sooner or later he will believe it.”

If that’s what it takes just to get into a training camp, it’s not a stretch to assume that Hamden went through some pretty rigorous testing to land this dream-job of chauffeur and bodyguard to the Big Sleaze himself. I would even surmise that it’s one of those positions a man would “kill for”.

Another of the charges dropped against Hamden involved a little “misunderstanding” after being caught with a couple of missiles in his car (who among us hasn’t been there?)

At the time of his capture at a roadblock in Afghanistan in November 2001, Hamdan had two shoulder-launched missiles, but he said the car was borrowed and the rockets were not his.

Ahhh… the old “hanging on to them for a friend” excuse.  I remember using that one in my misguided youth… only they were joints instead of missiles. Didn’t fly with my mom so I’m a little perplexed as to why a  MILITARY JURY is buying this guy’s story.

After his sentencing, a grateful Hamdan addressed the jury:

“I would like to apologize one more time to all the members and I would like to thank you for what you have done for me,” Hamdan told the five-man, one-woman jury, all military officers picked by the Pentagon for the first U.S. war crimes trial in a half-century.

Hamdan waved both hands as he left the courtroom, saying “bye, bye” in English.

Adorable. I’m sure he followed that with “suckers” in Yemen.

A link to the full story:

Guantanamo jury gives bin Laden driver 5 1/2 years


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