debbieschlussel.com reports that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has overturned the conviction of Salim Hamdan, Osama Bin Laden’s driver.

The U.S. Court of Appeals concluded that the Military Commissions Act did not authorize prosecutions for conduct that occurred before the law was passed and that was not prohibited at the time it occurred.

Hamdan was captured in Afghanistan in November 2001.

In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Guantanamo court system.  After this Supreme Court decision, Congress passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which created  specific new war crimes that could be prosecuted by a military commission, including providing support for terrorism.

Hamdan was convicted in August 2008 of providing personal services in support of terrorism by driving and guarding bin Laden.  The appeals court concluded that the military commissions act did not authorize prosecutions for conduct that occurred before the law was passed and that was not prohibited at the time it occurred.

Hamdan was sentenced to 66 months in prison but given credit for time served at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. He was returned to Yemen in November 2008 and set free in January 2009.

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Read the court’s decision (PDF)

Schlussel  explains that the reason that the ACLU and special interest groups filed this case was to prevent non-U.S. citizen terrorists, such as Hamdan and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, from being tried in military tribunals and moved into federal courts.  This decision advances this agenda.

This seems to be good law, but it sends a terrible message to troops on the battlefield and terrorists in training camps.  We need the Justice Department to figure out how to handle these cases without bringing a terror circus trial to a court room near you.