Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s former driver, has been sentenced by a military jury to five and a half years in prison — most of which he’s already served in detention. The prosecution wanted his sentence to be 30 years or longer, but it needn’t be too upset: The military has said it can hold Hamdan indefinitely if it feels like it. Hamdan’s lawyers are expected to appeal.

Hamdan’s case, though it has been seen as a test of legal rights, is about more than how detainees are tried. It speaks to the Bush administration’s often clumsy approach to fighting its war on terror.

Here we have the driver of Osama bin Laden. Not a mastermind or a hijacker, mind you, but a driver. He has cooperated with his captors and has reportedly told them what he knows. He says he drove for the money, and has apologized for doing so, most recently to the jury that sentenced him.

The reason the White House targeted Hamdan wasn’t because the safety of Americans depended on keeping him off the road. It was because the administration needed a win. The driver is the best it could do, apparently. That’s the kind of thinking that caused the RAND Corp. to determine that “current U.S. strategy against the terrorist group al Qaida has not been successful in significantly undermining the group’s capabilities.”


Osama Bin Laden’s former driver has been sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison at the first US military trial in Guantanamo Bay.

Salim Hamdan was convicted on Wednesday of supporting terrorism, but acquitted of conspiracy to murder.

Prosecutors had demanded a sentence of not less than 30 years.

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