The Poor Coverage of the Military Commissions

As the military commissions begin anew tomorrow, I’m struck by the dearth of coverage regarding the allegations against Detainee David Hicks, the first detainee to be tried under the military commissions process established by Congress after the Hamdan opinion ruled that the original commissions established by President Bush violated Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.The allegations against Detainee Hicks are serious, yet I can’t find a single recent news report which details the allegations beyond the name of the charge “providing material support” and a brief summary of alleged facts.  Professor Don Rothwell of Australian National University writing in The Canberra Times sums things up as follows:

What then can be expected of the hearing this week? First, it will give the US an opportunity to outline its case. The charge sheet refers to Hicks’s experience in Kosovo, his conversion to Islam, and travels to Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1999 and 2000. The principal allegation is that Hicks between December 2000 and December 2001 did in Afghanistan intentionally provide material support or resources to an international terrorist organisation engaged in hostilities against the United States, namely al-Qaeda. The most important part of the hearing, however, will arrive when Hicks gets the opportunity to plead.

The Washington Post also provides some additional detail:

…in 1999, angered by media coverage of Serbian atrocities against Muslims in Kosovo, Hicks traveled to Albania to join the paramilitary Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), although he claimed he saw no fighting.The U.S. charge sheet against him says Hicks completed military training at a KLA camp and engaged in hostile action before returning to Australia, where he converted to Islam.In 2000, Hicks went to Pakistan, where he began training with militant network Lashkar e-Toiba. The U.S. charge sheet says Hicks went to Afghanistan in January 2001 where he met al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

The 10 page charge sheet is available here.

The government provides quite a bit of detail in their allegations against Detainee Hicks:

  • Joined the Kosovo Liberation Army in May 1999, and fought on behalf of Albanian Muslims, engaging in hostile action before returning to Australia.
  • Converted to Islam and in November 1999, traveled to Pakistan where he joined the terrorist group Laskhar-e Tayyiba (LET).  A group whose known goals include violent attacks against property and nationals of India as well as opposition to Hindus, Jews, Americans and other Westerners. 
  • After Joining LET Hicks traveled to Kashmir and engaged in hostile action against Indian forces. 
  • In January 2001 Hicks with assistance from LET traveled to
    Afghanistan and attended al Qaeda training camps. 

He is charged with Providing Material Support for Terrorism, specifically:

  • Hicks attended al Qaeda training camps, including training in weapons familiarization and firing, land mines, tactics, topography, field movements, basic explosives, and other areas. 
  • Hicks trained in al Qaeda’s guerilla warfare and mountain training course.
  • Hicks expressed to bin Laden his concern over the lack of English al Qaeda training material
  • Muhammed Atef the military commander of al Qaeda after an interview recommended Hicks for attendance at al Qaeda’s urban tactics course, which Hicks attended.
  • Hicks personally collected intelligence on the American Embassy.
  • On September 12, 2001 knowing that the September 11, 2001 attacks had occurred and were perpetrated by al Qaeda, Hicks returned to Afghanistan and joined with al Qaeda. 
  • Upon reporting for duty in Khandar, Afghanistan, Hicks chose to join a group of al Qaeda fighters near the KhandaharAirport.
  • Hicks was issued an AK-47, and on his own armed himself with ammunition, and grenades to use against US and Coalition forces. 
  • Hicks guarded an enemy tank position and trained others at his location.
  • Hicks looked for another opportunity to fight, and eventually found his way to the frontlines in Konduz. 
  • On the front lines, Hicks along with John Walker Lindh and other al Qaeda and Taliban forces engaged in combat against coalition forces.  Hicks spent two hours on the frontline before it collapsed and he was forced to flee. 
  • Hicks, while under direct fire, was chased by Northern Alliance fighters.  He used his Australian passport to flee toward Pakistan, after selling his weapon he took a taxi toward Pakistan but was picked up by Northern Alliance forces. 

The information contained above constitutes a summary of the allegations against Detainee Hicks, however the level of detail provided suggests that the government has significant evidence provided either by Detainee Hicks, or others.  I’m surprised that a full accounting of this information has not been detailed somewhere else.  (or perhaps it has but I have not read it, pointers are welcome).