WASHINGTON — The Pentagon says the senior military judge overseeing terror trials at Guantanamo Bay has dropped charges against a suspect in the 2000 USS Cole bombing.
The military charges against suspected al-Qaida bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri marked the last active war crimes case at Guantanamo Bay.
The move by Susan J. Crawford, the top legal authority for military trials at Guantanamo, brings all cases into compliance with President Barack Obama's executive order to halt terrorist court proceedings at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba.
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Crawford dismissed the charges against Nashiri without prejudice. That means new charges can be brought again later. He will remain in prison for the time being.
"It was her decision, but it reflects the fact that the president has issued an executive order which mandates that the military commissions be halted, pending the outcome of several reviews of our operations down at Guantanamo," Morrell said Thursday night.
The ruling also gives the White House time to review the legal cases of all 245 terror suspects held there and decide if they should be prosecuted in the United States or released to other nations.
Obama was expected to meet with families of Cole and Sept. 11 victims at the White House today to announce the move.
Retired Navy Cmdr. Kirk S. Lippold, the commanding officer of the Cole when it was bombed in Yemen on Oct. 12, 2000, killing 17 U.S. soldiers, said he will be at meeting with Obama today.
Groups representing victims' families were angered by Obama's order, charging they had waited too long already to see the alleged attackers brought to court.
"I was certainly disappointed with the decision to delay the military commissions process," Lippold, now a defense adviser to Military Families United, said in an interview Thursday night. "We have already waited eight years. Justice delayed is justice denied. We must allow the military commission process to go forward."
Last year, Nashiri said during a Guantanamo hearing that he confessed to helping plot the Cole bombing only because he was tortured by U.S. interrogators. The CIA admits he was subjected to waterboarding, which simulates drowning, in 2002 and 2003 while being interrogated in secret CIA prisons.