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Prisoner Faces New Tribunal Process at Guantanamo Bay

Australian prisoner David Hicks faced charges of providing material support for terrorism before a revamped military tribunal system at Guantanamo Bay on Monday. Miami Herald reporter Carol Rosenberg, who was in the courtroom, talks about the case, then analysts Neal Katyal and John Yoo discuss the future of the U.S. base.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    More than five years after the naval base at Guantanamo Bay was designated as a detention and interrogation center for alleged enemy combatants, the first Guantanamo detainee case came before a military court on the island this afternoon.

    Thirty-one-year-old Australian David Hicks was arraigned on charges he provided support for al-Qaida terrorists and the Taliban in Afghanistan during American air raids there in the fall of 2001.

    Hicks, who has spent the last five years on Guantanamo, was originally scheduled to go before a military commission in November of 2005, but proceedings were canceled after the Supreme Court ruled the Bush administration's initial military commission process was unconstitutional.

    Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald was in the courtroom this afternoon, and she joins us now.

    Carol Rosenberg, this was a long time coming, and it took longer than expected. Tell us what happened.

  • CAROL ROSENBERG, The Miami Herald:

    Well, as with many things at Guantanamo, it didn't exactly go to script. We had a three-and-a-half-hour hearing that was supposed to be an arraignment, but David Hicks didn't enter a plea, and they didn't read the charges. They waived all of that.

    And we spent three-and-a-half hours mostly on procedures and getting a first look at David Hicks in two-and-a-half years.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So was he charged? You said they didn't read the charges?

  • CAROL ROSENBERG:

    They waived the reading of the charges. They announced that he was charged with material support for terrorism, but because of procedural reasons, he didn't answer "not guilty" or whatever he might have responded.

    They got caught up in basically the rules of the game, how this was going to work, as this is the first one of these U.S. war crimes tribunals since World War II. And they spent some time debating and discussing whether or not he could have his civilian attorneys, and the two civilian attorneys who came to the table left.

    And by the time they got to the reading of the charges, some other issues had intruded, and they waited until they get through some motions next time. So it was an arraignment without an answer to the charge.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Why did two of his lawyers leave?

  • CAROL ROSENBERG:

    Well, one of the attorneys who was sitting at the table was Josh Dratel. I think he's pretty well-known in New York; he's a pretty big criminal defense attorney.

    But the new rules for the commissions just came through Congress late last year, and there still is not an understanding about what allows a civilian attorney to sit at the table. And the Marine colonel who's organizing the thing basically said he hadn't signed the right paperwork and excused him from the room.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So it sounds like not according to — at least not according to what you and others expected. Tell us about what David Hicks looked like, the atmospherics in the courtroom.

  • CAROL ROSENBERG:

    Absolutely. This was the first opportunity to see David Hicks since two-and-a-half years ago, when the last time they tried to have one of these trials before the Supreme Court ruled them illegal. And last time, he had a suit, a tie, and almost like a military-style haircut.

    Today, he looked like Rip van Winkle. He had his hair down to his back. He was wearing what looked like scrubs. It's a prison uniform in beige, top and bottom. He had shaved, but there was a bit of a — I don't know, five o'clock shadow. And the guy looked like he just walked out of history. I can't say anything more than that. He looked like a troubled character.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Did he speak? And what did you make of that, of his demeanor?

  • CAROL ROSENBERG:

    Yes, he was clear. He was respectful. He has quite a strong Australian accent. He said, "Yes, sir."

    He told the colonel he was shocked, that his defense team had been devastated. He has been working for the past two-and-a-half years with these two civilian attorneys, as well as the Marine Major Dan Mori who's been assigned to his case.

    And in the course of this hearing, the other two people were disqualified. The Marine made it clear — the Marine colonel in charge made it clear he could come back, but right now, as of today, it's just David Hicks and the Marine major at the table.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So do we know where this goes from here, since he has not pleaded one way or another, guilty, not guilty?

  • CAROL ROSENBERG:

    I suspect we'll all be back here in a couple of weeks. There's going to be motions hearings. The Marine major, who is the defense attorney for Hicks, is going to be having to file some motions on whether or not the — excuse me, he's going to have to file some motions on how they want to proceed on this trial.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And, Carol, was this an orderly process? Would you describe it that way?

  • CAROL ROSENBERG:

    Well, there was a script. The reporters were expecting a script. We expected a detainee to come in, and to enter a plea, and for it to look sort of like a criminal trial that we know.

    But the fact of the matter is, all of these other ancillary issues got caught up in it. And so it was orderly, but it was not according to what we expected the script to be.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And so what was different? You said you expected it to be more like a criminal trial. What set it apart from that?

  • CAROL ROSENBERG:

    They've never staged one of these before, since World War II. And then it was done under different sets of ground rules. I guess nobody in the room seemed to agree on how this would proceed and how it would be carried out.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    All right. Carol Rosenberg with the Miami Herald, marching into new territory there, thank you very much.

  • CAROL ROSENBERG:

    Thank you.

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