A United States military judge has sealed the plea agreement in the first conviction at Guantanamo Bay under the Obama administration.
Judge and Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Nancy J. Paul sealed the plea agreement at the request of the government and with the consent of the defense attorneys in the case of Ibrahim al-Qosi, a native Sudanese and former cook for al-Qaida. Last month, al-Qosi pled guilty to conspiracy and material support for terrorism. He has been detained at Guantanamo for over eight years.
The plea agreement contains details on the maximum sentence al-Qosi can serve. An Arab news organization, al Arabiya, reported last month that the plea agreement provides for a two-year sentence. Details of the plea agreement will remain secret until the Pentagon finalizes the sentence, which could occur in the next few weeks.
The jury, comprised of American military officers, will begin deliberations in the case today to recommend a sentence for al-Qosi. However, their decision as to the duration of the sentence could be overturned by the military tribunal overseers if it exceeds the length of the sentence in the secret plea bargain.
A government spokesman, Navy Captain David Iglesias, allegedly refused to comment on the rationale for the secrecy surrounding the plea agreement, but indicated that it raised national security issues and was for the benefit of al-Qosi and the government.
During President Obama’s first week in office, he pledged to “create an unprecedented level of openness in government” and to “establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.” However, many advocates of open government have criticized the President for failing to follow through on these promises.