Charges Dropped Against Detainee 063

The Associated Press reports this morning that Pentagon officials have dropped military commissions charges (for now) against Mohammed al-Qahtani—better known as Detainee 063 after the Time cover story detailing his interrogation. Prosecutors alleged that al-Qahtani was the “20th hijacker,” who narrowly missed participating in the 9/11 attacks after being detained at a Florida airport. However, the prosecution stalled because of government admissions that some evidence against al-Qahtani was gleaned through coercive interrogation (read: torture ), like water-boarding, and that al-Qahtani himself was harshly treated (read: tortured) at Gitmo.

And so, yet again, the decision to “take the gloves off” in prisoner interrogations comes back to haunt us. The prosecution of al-Qahtani should have been an opportunity for the government to prove its case against this defendant and al-Qaida—and to confer some legitimacy on America’s war on terrorism through the legal process. Instead, the military commissions remain mired in a morass of legal problems. And this particular prosecution may never go forward, beacuse it was tainted by torture .

Correction, May 14, 2008:  This post originally contained a photo of a man identified as Mohammed al-Qahtani. However, the man pictured was not the Mohammed al-Qahtani discussed in the post/article. The photograph has been removed.