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Military Trials Likely, DOD Will Get New Commissions Chief
By Christopher M. Matthews | March 24, 2022 3:16 pm

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates has appointed a new chief judicial officer for the Office of Military Commissions, a strong signal that the Obama administration may have decided to try the Sept. 11 conspirators in the military court instead of civilian court, according to a Newsweek article.

Citing “three Defense Department sources familiar with the decision,” Declassified, Newsweek’s national security blog, reported Wednesday that the Pentagon is expected to announce that retired Admiral Bruce MacDonald will be the new “convening authority” for the Office of Military Commissions. The announcement could come as early as today.

According to the article, the appointment would pave the way for the Pentagon to begin convening trials for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, sometimes called “KSM,” and other 9/11 conspirators at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“All the indications we’ve been given are to get ready for a lot of activity in Guantanamo,” a military prosecutor, who asked not to be identified talking about upcoming cases, told Newsweek. “It’s full steam ahead.”

MacDonald, who formerly served as the chief Judge Advocate of the Navy, would replace Susan Crawford, a Bush political appointee who retired two months ago. He would be charged with referring charges, the military equivalent of an indictment, against Guantanamo detainees after receiving recommendations from military prosecutors. After the White House ordered a halt to all military commissions last year, the referrals were put on hold.

But now, it appears that “hold” is being lifted as military prosecutors are actively working on as many as 50 cases of Gitmo detainees who can be referred for trial before the commissions, the article said.

President Obama’s apparent embrace of using military commissions for the 9/11 conspirators would overrule Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement that they would be tried before civilian courts. Holder’s decision to try KSM in New York drew fire from Republicans and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, while liberals have blasted the administration for hinting that it might use military tribunals.

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