Though some critics and observers are suggesting the Ghailani verdict — he was acquited of all but one of more than 280 charges — weakens the president's call for civilian criminal trials for Guantanamo detainees, a senior administration official pushes back:
"He was convicted by a jury of a count which carries a 20-year minimum sentence," the official says. "He will very likely be sentenced to something closer to life. (The judge can, and very likely will, take into account things that the jury did not, and he can and will consider conduct that the jury found him not guilty of — e.g., murder). He will never be paroled (there is no parole in the federal system). There are very few federal crimes that carry a mandatory MINIMUM of 20 years. What that means is that he was convicted of a crime that is a very big deal."
"So, we tried a guy (who the Bush Admin tortured and then held at GTMO for 4-plus years with no end game whatsoever) in a federal court before a NY jury with full transparency and international legitimacy and — despite all of the legacy problems of the case (i.e., evidence getting thrown out because of Bush-Admin torture, etc,) we were STILL able to convict him and INCAPACITATE him for essentially the rest of his natural life, AND there was not one — not one — security problem associated with the trial."
"Would it have been better optically if he had been convicted of more counts? Sure. Would it have made any practical difference? No."