"The prosecutors said they would have preferred a longer sentence, but noted that they had won a conviction. “That’s the way a fair, open system works,” said one of the prosecutors, Maj. Omar Ashmawy. “The sentence isn’t always what the government asks for.”
Defense lawyers described the verdict as a victory propelled by the military officers on the panel, but they said it did not remedy what they have described as the system’s flaws.
“What ultimately happened, in spite of the system, was justice,” said Charles D. Swift, a former Navy lawyer who has forged a close relationship with Mr. Hamdan through more than five years of battles as his lawyer.
After just over an hour of deliberations on the sentence, the panel of six senior military officers returned to the windowless tribunal room with their sentence on the single war crimes charge on which they convicted him, providing material support to a terrorist organization.
After the president of the panel, the most senior officer, read the sentence, Mr. Hamdan rose at the defense table, collected himself and spoke. Referring to an apology he had made to victims of terrorism on Thursday morning in the same room, he began, “I would like to apologize one more time.” " NY Times
Hamdan will be released before the end of the year. The six officers have all had soldier or sailor drivers. They decided that they knew what the role of a driver is, and that this role did not justify further confinement for Hamdan. They also decided that Hamdan was not a planner in Al-Qa’ida or anything other than someone who drove Usama bin Laden for a money salary. This judgment was reflected in their refusal to convict him on more serious charges.
The prosecution sought to use this military commission to communicate a message to the world. This message was to be that any association with any group the United States chooses to call "terrorist" will lead, at the least, to a long, long prison sentence.
The prosecution’s, and presumably the Bush Administration’s, desire to send that message was thwarted by six officers who preferred justice. Colonels can be unpredictable people.
There will be those, unwilling to say or think anything good about military people, who will insist that Gates or someone signaled, somehow, what the desired outcome was.