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The Bush Administration On Trial

8:20 PM, Nov 23, 2009 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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ghailani.jpgAhmed Khalfan Ghailani

From Bloomberg:

Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian who faces terrorism charges for his role in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies, asked a judge to order U.S. prosecutors to surrender information about "black sites" where he was held.

Ghailani faces federal charges over the bombings of U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans. Ghailani had been held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since 2006, before being transferred to the U.S. in June. He is the first detainee from Guantanamo Bay to be tried in a U.S. civilian court.

In a legal request filed today, lawyers for Ghailani asked a U.S. judge to compel prosecutors to disclose "material related the government's decision to detain and interrogate" Ghailani "in CIA ‘Black Sites' and Guantanamo Bay." Defense lawyers also want information about his treatment there.

The request indicates that lawyers for Ghailani will highlight his treatment after his capture as part of his defense. A legal brief and supporting affidavit by his defense lawyers is redacted.

The trial of the Bush administration's detention and interrogation policies has begun. For years, leftist human rights groups and criminal defense attorneys have fought for the day when they could make the Bush administration the center of a federal trial. You can bet that the same types of motions as those filed on Ghailani's behalf will also be filed during the trial of the September 11 conspirators.

Defense attorneys will say, of course, that information about Ghailani's treatment while in U.S. custody is crucial to their client's defense. But that is only true as far as they can show that Ghailani's interrogators "tainted" his admissions through abuse or "torture." (Ghailani was subjected to some of the CIA's so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques," but not waterboarding.) To the extent that the case against Ghailani is based on other evidence, that which was not extracted during his interrogations, it is doubtful that the details of Ghailani's interrogations have any relevance in determining his guilt or innocence.

In fact, we know that substantial evidence against Ghailani was accumulated outside of his interrogations. Ghailani was indicted years ago for his role in the 1998 embassy bombings. Federal prosecutors had begun to build a case against him then--that is, long before he was captured or interrogated.

During his combatant status review tribunal (CSRT) at Gitmo, Ghailani also made a number of admissions in the context of flimsy denials. For example, Ghailani admitted that he purchased TNT that was used in the bombings, but claimed that he thought it was "soap for washing horses." In addition, Ghailani's own testimony at Gitmo directly connected him to the truck, fertilizer, detonators, gas cylinders, and cell phone used in the attack.

So, there is really no doubt about Ghailani's guilt and prosecutors will hopefully be able to convince the court that the details of Ghailani's interrogations are not necessary--for either the prosecution or defense.

Meanwhile, we should not forget that while Ghailani was held by the CIA he gave up important intelligence on al Qaeda's operations. According to declassified excerpts of a CIA analysis titled "Detainee Reporting Pivotal for the War Against Al Qaeda," and dated June 3, 2005 (emphasis added):

"Ahmed Khalfam Ghailani (a.k.a. Haytham al-Kini, a.k.a. Fupi) a Tanzanian al Qaeda member who was indicted for his role in 1998 East Africa US Embassy bombings, has provided new insights into al Qaeda's skills and networks. As a facilitator and one of al Qaeda's top document forgers since the 11 September attacks, with access to individuals across the organizations (sic) until his arrest in July 2004, he has reported on how he forged passports and to whom he supplied them."