Running Out The Clock

From the Washington Post:

“The Bush administration is seeking to recall a military jury that gave a light sentence to Osama bin Laden’s driver in one of the first trials at Guantanamo Bay, arguing that the judge improperly credited the defendant for time he had already spent in the detention facility.

Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a 40-year-old Yemeni captured in Afghanistan in November 2001, was sentenced in August to 66 months for providing material support to terrorism. The judge, Navy Capt. Keith J. Allred, credited the defendant with 61 months and eight days for time he had been detained at the U.S. military prison in Cuba, leaving Hamdan with an effective sentence of 142 days. Prosecutors had sought a 30-year term.

The government argues that Hamdan was not entitled to any credit for his pretrial detention because he was not held at Guantanamo Bay “in connection with the charges for which he was tried, but was independently detained under the law of armed conflict as an enemy combatant,” according to motions filed with the military court and released this week.

According to military prosecutors, that distinction also allows the government to hold any detainee even after he has been tried, convicted, sentenced and has served his time. The government said in court papers that prosecution for violations of the laws of war is an “incidental fact” to a detainee’s “wartime detention as an enemy combatant.””

You have to wonder why they are doing this. Hamdan has been tried, convicted, and sentenced. He was credited for time served. If my math is correct, his remaining sentence ends around the end of December. A few weeks later, a new administration will take office. Whoever wins the election, it’s hard for me to see how a new administration will not try to bring the United States back into conformity with its own laws, and with the treaties it has signed. If they do so, they will presumably end up releasing Hamdan.

Are they just trying to run out the clock? Can they not admit that they went to court and did not get everything they wanted? Why waste everyone’s time doing this? Do prosecutors and judges have nothing better to do?