Omar Khadr is accused of throwing a grenade that killed Sgt. First Class Christopher J. Speer during a battle in Afghanistan in 2002. Khadr was 15 at the time, and his lawyers claim that Khadr underwent abusive treatment and torture after being captured, including stress positions, rape threats, and being used as a "human mop" after he urinated in his cell.
Military commissions proceedings are currently under way at Guantanamo to determine the admissibility of evidence the defense says was gained through coercion. The stakes are high, because as Spencer Ackerman reports, a loss for the government could imperil an indefinite number of future military commissions cases, while successful admission of such evidence will call into question the fairness of the proceedings. The other option the government is considering is a plea deal, which would allow the government to avoid dealing with such questions at all.
The plea deal reportedly offered would keep Khadr in jail for five more years, and the defense rejected it. That makes sense. Of the previous three military commissions cases that ended in convictions, two got fairly light sentences. Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's limo driver and bodyguard, got five months plus time served, and is already back home in Yemen. David Hicks, an Australian who fought on behalf of the Taliban in Afghanistan, got a plea deal and served nine months. Are Khadr's alleged offenses, especially given his age at the time, that much more serious than the prior two convicts?
With the torture wing of the GOP breathing down the Obama administration's neck over the outcome of the Khadr trial, any plea deal that resembles the ones given during the Bush administration will be trumpeted on the right as Obama surrendering to terrorists, which means the administration is under political pressure to push for a plea deal that would give Khadr more prison time than his predecessor might have. That's partially a function of the American media's willingness to critically examine conservative claims about Obama's national security policies, but that's the situation.
-- A. Serwer