David Hicks Pleads Guilty to Supporting a Terrorist Organization

David Hicks, an Australian citizen being held as an unlawful combatant in Guantanamo Bay, has pleaded guilty to the charge of supporting a terrorist organization.

David Hicks has pleaded guilty to one count of supporting a terrorist organisation.

The plea to a late night specially convened military commission came after an apparent deal was reached between his defence attorney and the prosecution.

Major Michael Mori, Hicks’s military lawyer, entered the plea to the charge of material support for terrorism, which was broken into two counts or specifications.

Major Mori said Hicks pleaded guilty on specification one, and not guilty on specification two.

Specification one of the charge detailed Hicks’s links to terrorist organisations and his activities in Afghanistan where he met Osama bin Laden and completed al-Qaeda training courses.

Specification two simply alleged that Hicks entered Afghanistan from about December 2000 to December 2001 to provide support for terrorism and that he did so in “the context of and was associated with an armed conflict namely al-Qaeda, or its associated forces against the United States or its coalition partners”.

Whether this confession actually has any basis in reality whatsoever has not been and probably will not be demonstrated. Given Hicks’ history, it’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that this confession is accurate. Well, hey, let’s be honest–it probably is accurate. But knowing what we know about how prisoners were treated at Gitmo, and given Hicks’ own affidavit regarding his own alleged mistreatment, who can really say? One thing’s for sure is that the trail of evidence is probably far too cold and unreliable to make any honest judgments.

One of the things that is truly awful about the way the Bush Administration has handled counter-terrorism efforts is that its efforts to “act tough” and disregard centuries of American tradition regarding the treatment of prisoners is now actively undermining national security. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s “confessions” have been widely disregarded worldwide, since everyone is pretty sure that he was tortured. Hicks’ confession will likely be treated with the same level of skepticism. If their confessions are true, then worldwide skepticism of those confessions is only going to hamper counterterrorist measures and bolster the strength of our enemies.

The sad thing is, if the Administration had bothered to pay any attention to history at all–or even to simple human decency, then we would be much closer to defeating Islamic extremism than we are today.

FILED UNDER: National Security, Terrorism, , , , , , , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. I read this article. Freaking Australians…

  2. djneylon says:

    The important thing to remember is that these are NOT standard criminal trials. The individuals at Gitmo are prisoners of war. They are being adjudicated as to whether or not we need to continue holding them, based on the threat they represent. POWs do not have the the same rights as US citizens because they are NOT US CITIZENS — THEY ARE POWs, WHO ARE FORIEGNERS — THEREFORE, NOT CITIZENS. The Geneva Conventions apply, not the US Constitution.
    We got into this mess with terrorism because we treated it as law enforcement, not a war against us. We paid the price on 9-11.

  3. M. Murcek says:

    No doubt, lollipops all around would have made it all OK…

  4. Alex Knapp says:


    I agree with you that a “standard criminal trial” isn’t necessarily required under the Geneva Conventions. However, the use of hearsay in these hearings, denial of counsel, and coercive interrogations are all problematic, especially in a “war” with an ill-defined enemy and out-of-uniform combatants. Humane treatment and speedy determinations of status are essential in these cases, and most of the prisoners at Gitmo were denied both.

    M. Murcek,

    No doubt, lollipops all around would have made it all OK…

    Humane treatment of prisoners of war has been part of the American tradition since the Revolutionary War. George Washington himself thought it essential to victory in the Revolution, since stories of humane treatment would make it more likely for enemy soldiers to surrender (especially the Hessian mercenaries) and less likely that Royalist-leaning colonists would be inclined to take up arms against the revolutionaries in the first place. In the present conflicts against Islamic extremism, the same principles would not only provide us with the moral high ground, but would serve the same tactical purpose of making surrender more likely and new terrorists taking up arms less likely.

    Alas, George Bush thinks that he’s smarter than George Washington. I doubt that history will agree.

  5. Pug says:

    Humane treatment of prisoners of war has been part of the American tradition since the Revolutionary War.

    Indeed, and it is partly, though only partly, what made us the good guys. Americans should quit watching so much “24” and recognize that not torturing prisoners is one of America’s great traditions. When it comes to George W’s, I’ll take Washington anyday.

  6. Anderson says:

    I continue to be a lonely voice against giving KSM and co. the dignity of being “prisoners of war,” let alone the illegal contrivance of “enemy combatants.”

    They’re freakin’ criminals, people. Like Timothy McVeigh. They should be tried, and if found guilty, they should be punished.

    Glorifying KSM as an “enemy of the U.S.” gives him entirely too much credit.

    Mr. Knapp is of course right — we should have interrogated these people properly, given them trials, and put our system in the spotlight as a showcase for the world.

    You know, as if we were actually proud of our country and our system. Which, evidently, our White House is not.

  7. Alex Knapp says:

    I continue to be a lonely voice against giving KSM and co. the dignity of being “prisoners of war,” let alone the illegal contrivance of “enemy combatants.”

    Anderson, it definitely depends on context. KSM is arguably simply a criminal, by any standard. However, those members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban who were captured on the battlefield are arguably POWs.

    Those poor souls who were rounded up by the Northern Alliance to settle tribal grudges or obtain bounties are, of course, largely innocent and should have been released years ago.

    Mr. Knapp is of course right

    Can’t argue with that. But you can call me Alex. 🙂