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Bin Laden Driver Was Not Read His Rights, Court Told

The legal complex of the U.S. Military Commissions at Guantanamo Bay
GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba -- A driver for Osama bin Laden was not told of any rights against self-incrimination under years of interrogation, FBI agents have told the Guantanamo war crimes court.

"Our policy at the time was not to read Miranda rights," FBI special agent Robert Fuller said in testimony at the U.S. military commission trial of Salim Hamdan on charges of conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism.

Fuller was referring to the Miranda v. Arizona U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1966, which held that potential criminal suspects in custody must be informed of rights to an attorney and against self-incrimination.

Similar warnings must be given to suspects in U.S. military custody, and suspects overseas who may face U.S. charges commonly receive warnings. "If they are a suspect, and they are detained, a Miranda is usually given," FBI special agent Stewart Kelley testified.

The military commission trying Hamdan has ruled he has no rights against self-incrimination.

Hamdan, a Yemeni father of two with a fourth-grade education, is the first Guantanamo prisoner to face trial before the controversial tribunal at the remote base on Cuba. He faces life in prison if convicted. His trial is the first U.S. war crimes trial since World War II.

Prosecutors are seeking to portray Hamdan as a close associate of bin Laden who was aware of plotting for the September 11, 2001, attacks and supported them with his efforts. Defense attorneys have characterized Hamdan as a simple employee.

Seven agents, six from the FBI and one from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, testified on July 24 about questioning Hamdan in sessions from shortly after his capture in November 2001 to 2003 at Guantanamo.

All denied coercing or threatening Hamdan, who has said he was subject to sleep deprivation and sexual impropriety during his time in captivity.

No Interest In Fighting

The commission's chief defense counsel, Colonel Steve David, said after the court session on July 24 that Hamdan's lawyers intended on July 25 to raise "significant new evidence" regarding Hamdan's treatment in interrogations that could reopen the issue of whether evidence can be used against him.

Many of the interrogators described Hamdan as cooperative but incomplete in answering their questions.

"He would answer questions, but they had to be pointed, direct questions," said an FBI special agent who testified anonymously as "Witness One."

They said he told them he had no interest in fighting after he trained at an Al-Qaeda camp, but also described him as someone from bin Laden's ancestral region of Yemen who had gained the Al-Qaeda leader's deep trust.

"You don't gain access to someone that important unless you go through a process of trust," special agent Craig Donnachie told the court.

Fuller narrated for the court a photographic tour of bin Laden's sprawling compounds in and near Kandahar, Afghanistan, on which Hamdan accompanied agents.

"The whole neighborhood was poor, but this compound was in great shape," Fuller said of one of the compounds, with several three-story buildings surrounded by white-painted walls.

Another compound, Tarnak Farms, with an estimated 100 buildings, was bombed flat in the U.S.-led overthrow of the Afghan Taliban government that protected Al-Qaeda. One picture showed a field of rubble where a VIP complex once stood.

"Obviously this was subsequent to intervention on our part," Fuller said.

Donnachie recounted hearing from Hamdan about his experience in a main Al-Qaeda camp, where he received training in automatic weapons and rockets. "He reiterated that he had no interest in fighting after he completed his experience."

Instead, he said, Hamdan wanted to return to the Al-Qaeda "guest house" where he was staying and he accepted a job as one of bin Laden's several drivers.

Colonel Lawrence Morris, head of prosecution for the military commissions, acknowledged to reporters that Hamdan did not occupy a high-ranking position in Al-Qaeda. Nevertheless, he said, through Hamdan's actions and support for the organization, "he is a war criminal."