At Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. military is currently conducting the first American war crimes trial since World War II -- the military commission of Salim Hamdan, the driver for Osama bin Laden. The ACLU's Ben Wizner is one of the few outside observers present for the proceedings, and I spoke with him this morning about what he has witnessed thus far.
Wizner's observations were genuinely fascinating, and they conclusively reveal what a sham proceeding and abject mockery of justice Hamdan's military commission is. The outcome is plainly pre-ordained, though that doesn't even matter, since even if Hamdan were fully acquitted, the Bush administration claims that it has the authority to continue to hold him indefinitely as an "enemy combatant." Hamdan, an absurdly low-level, menial worker for bin Laden, has been detained for almost seven full years now. It was Hamdan's case that led the Supreme Court, in 2006, to rule that President Bush lacked the authority to constitute military tribunals, but Congress then immediately enacted the Military Commissions Act to re-constitute those tribunals, rendering Hamdan's victory virtually worthless.
Wizner makes as persuasive a case as I've heard that these ludicrous military commission are an even worse stain on our country than if we just continued to detain people with no charges (Wizner doesn't argue that proposition explicitly, and may not subscribe to it, but it seems to me to be the logical conclusion of his analysis). The transcript of the interview is here. Wizner will be live-blogging the trial at the ACLU's Blog of Rights (his last dispatch was here).
A couple of technical/administrative notes relating to the radio show: for those who have asked, MP3s of the podcasts are available here (scroll to the bottom), and they will be immediately available each day there is a new one posted. Those wishing to do so can subscribe to the Radio Show on iTunes and otherwise here. The sound quality for this particular interview is imperfect because Wizner was using a phone from a tent in "Camp Justice" at Guantanamo. In general, the sound and recording system that Salon has set up -- which will ensure very high-quality, professionalized recordings -- is almost (though not quite yet) ready to be deployed, so the quality of these podcasts will improve substantially very shortly.