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A False Martyr

10:30 AM, Apr 25, 2011 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Late last year, Guantanamo detainee Omar Khadr agreed to a plea deal that will require him to serve a maximum of eight years, with just one of those years in Cuba. Khadr is then set to be returned to Canada – his family’s adopted home, which they left for the Taliban and al Qaeda’s Afghanistan prior to 9/11. There, he may serve the remaining seven years of his sentence, or he may seek (and be granted) an early release. Therefore, the plea deal granted to this son of al Qaeda, who killed an American serviceman in Afghanistan, is an especially lenient sentence.

Omar Khadr presented as a modern Christ by a far-left Canadian magazine

Omar Khadr presented as a modern Christ by a far-left Canadian magazine, 'Briar Patch.'

Not content with the terms of the plea deal, however, Khadr’s attorneys are asking a military commission for clemency. They want the plea deal reduced to just four years. Khadr’s lawyers are also not happy that a military tribunal handed out a 40-year sentence to their client. (It doesn’t seem to matter to them that Khadr won’t serve close to 40 years, as his plea deal remains intact.) The defense attorneys are clearly spooked that Khadr would have served a much longer sentence if the plea deal hadn’t been reached. The tribunal’s sentence may have ramifications for future proceedings as well.

So, Khadr’s defense lawyers have set out to attack the man they blame for the 40-year sentence: Dr. Michael Welner, a widely respected forensic psychiatrist who has testified in a large number of highly complex cases. Journalists friendly to the defense team and Khadr activists are helping the lawyers’ cause, highlighting their many outrageous accusations in “news” stories and twitter posts.

(Full disclosure: As he prepared his testimony last year, Welner contacted me to discuss the publicly available information on ex-Guantanamo detainees who are now recidivists.)

The defense team insists that Welner “intimidated” a jury of senior military officers into handing out a much longer sentence than they ordinarily would have. Obviously, Khadr’s lawyers do not think that highly of the men and women in uniform, as only a push-over could be hoodwinked in such a manner.

But the jury members weren’t the only ones bamboozled, if you believe the defense. Khadr’s lawyers claim that Col. Patrick Parrish, the military judge presiding over the matter, complained to them: “Dr. Welner would have been as likely to be accurate if he used a Ouija board.” Khadr’s defense team alleges that Parrish made this comment offhandedly, conveniently after the trial, which was transcribed, had concluded – when no one else could have heard it. 

If this were true, one would think that Parrish would simply exclude Welner’s supposedly hypnotic testimony, as the judge had the power to do so.

This is merely yet another example showing that Khadr’s lawyers will say just about anything. Their phony claims about Khadr being “tortured” were shot down by Parrish, but only after some in the press repeated the allegations as fact. It didn’t matter to the lawyers that American servicemen were being slandered in the process. The lawyers even claimed that a videotape of Khadr planting bombs should be excluded under the theory that it was tainted by Khadr’s fictitious torture. Parrish didn’t buy that argument, for obvious reasons.

As part of their latest legal gambit, Khadr’s defense lawyers have received help from a well-known, but highly controversial, terrorism “expert” named Dr. Marc Sageman. Sageman assailed Welner in a 13-page letter submitted to defense counsel. But Sageman’s letter is filled with errors, both of fact and omission. This should not be surprising, as Sageman has consistently misdiagnosed the terrorist threat. 

Marc Sageman’s 13-Page “Analysis” in Khadr’s Case

There are gaping holes in Sageman’s analysis of the terrorist threat. However, this did not stop him from claiming the mantle of expertise in seeking to impugn Welner. In his letter to defense counsel, Sageman claimed he was an “internationally recognized expert in terrorism and counter-terrorism.” Of course, Sageman did not explain that his research has been consistently criticized by others in the field. As Bruce Hoffman wrote in Foreign Affairs in 2008, Sageman’s “impressive resumé cannot overcome his fundamental misreading of the al Qaeda threat.”

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