Witness Alleges Bin Laden Driver Made Loyalty Pledge

Witness Alleges Bin Laden Driver Made Loyalty Pledge
August 1st, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Witness Alleges Bin Laden Driver Made Loyalty Pledge

Witness Alleges Bin Laden Driver Made Loyalty Pledge
Miami Herald
August 1, 2008
Pg. 5
A Navy investigator testified that Osama bin Laden's driver swore a loyalty oath to the al Qaeda founder in a day that featured the war court's first secret testimony.
By Carol Rosenberg
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- In a day that started in secrecy and ended in secrecy, the Pentagon prosecution got what it wanted: A federal agent testified Thursday that Osama bin Laden's driver confessed here in 2003 that he had sworn a pledge of allegiance to his boss.
''He said he pledged bayat to Osama bin Laden,'' Robert McFadden, an agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, said at the terrorism trial of the driver, Salim Hamdan, 37, of Yemen.
McFadden was allowed to relate the information to the six-member jury of U.S. military officers after weeks of tug of war between the defense and prosecution at the first U.S. war-crimes tribunal since World War II.
The military judge, Capt. Keith Allred, announced at the opening of the ninth day of the trial that he had reversed an earlier ruling, based on new evidence, and ruled that McFadden's May 2003 interrogation was not obtained by ``coercive measures.''
''Being detained in Guantánamo Bay is undoubtedly an unpleasant, highly regimented experience, with instant rewards or loss of privileges for infractions,'' the judge wrote in a five-page ruling.
Nearly all the rest of his explanation -- three and a half pages -- was censored.
Secret testimony
Later in the day, Allred also ordered the court closed while defense attorneys called two Special Forces officers who were at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan when Hamdan was brought there as a war captive in December 2001. For the first time at the war court, reporters, human-rights and legal observers were ushered out, leaving behind only those in the court with special security clearances to hear classified information.
Hamdan, who also remained in the courtroom, is accused of conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism for allegedly serving as the al Qaeda leader's driver, sometime bodyguard and weapons courier.
He denies joining al Qaeda, and says he drove for wages not ideology -- an argument undercut by the pledge of bayat.
Hamdan's attorney, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer, acknowledged that it was a defense witness whose testimony required the first-ever closure of the ostensibly transparent war court.
But he said it was the U.S. government -- not the Hamdan team -- that declared the testimony secret. So, for two hours Thursday, reporters at a filing center could see the lips move on two witnesses in the uniforms of the U.S. Army Special Forces.
But no sound came out.
The first, Army psychologist Col. L. Morgan Banks III, now works at the Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C., the home of the Delta Force. In 2003, he was identified as the senior Army Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) psychologist, a program that teaches troops how not to crack under enemy interrogation.
The second was Lt. Col. G. John Banks, an Army lawyer.
''I hope that the American public will someday hear Mr. Hamdan's defense,'' said Mizer.
And so the only public testimony Thursday came from McFadden, who described Hamdan confessing to his devotion to the al Qaeda leader in his final interrogation, in May 2003.
A month later, he would become the first war-on-terrorism captive charged under the original White House format, later upended when Hamdan's lawyers challenged President Bush in the Supreme Court.
The defense wanted the interrogation excluded on grounds that prison-camp documents supported a Hamdan claim that he had been humiliated, isolated and sleep-deprived beforehand.
McFadden, a long-serving federal agent, said it was conducted while sitting on the floor, tribal-style, inside an interrogation trailer at Camp Delta.
He, Hamdan and a former federal agent, Lebanese-born Ali Soufan, sat on the floor, gave the driver tea and sweets, and the conversation flowed, he said.
Hamdan reportedly told him of the pledge of bayat -- something no other agent has described in court -- but the father of four with a fourth-grade education added a hitch. Under his oath, said McFadden, ``the jihad must remain expelling the Jews and Christians, killing the Jews and Christians, and expelling them from the Arabian Peninsula.''
But, McFadden said Hamdan said he could not support a holy war turning Muslim against Muslim, a ``political type of violence.''
''He reserved the right to withdraw from that bayat,'' McFadden said.

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