Hillary Clinton cheered the transfer of convicted murderer Omar Khadr from Guantanamo Bay to a Canadian prison, emails released on Monday show.
“Thank you for all you did to get this resolved,” then-Sec. of State Clinton wrote to State Department legal adviser Harold Koh in a Sept. 29, 2012 email, which was spotted by Vice News’ Jason Leopold, the reporter who filed the lawsuit that forced the State Department to release Clinton’s emails.
Koh had worked with the Canadian government to secure Khadr’s transfer. He had been at the Cuban facility since 2002 when he was detained in Afghanistan during a firefight with American soldiers. Then a 15-year-old child soldier, Khadr was accused of throwing a grenade that killed Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer, a member of a U.S. Army Special Forces Unit.
In an Oct. 2010 plea deal — reportedly pushed by Clinton — Khadr was given an eight year prison sentence after he admitted to murdering Speer and to planting improvised explosive devices and training with al-Qaeda. He has since repudiated his claim that he killed Speer, saying now that he only confessed in order to get out of Gitmo, where he claims he was tortured. Khadr has not repudiated his admission to having thrown the explosive, however. He has said he threw it out of fear and without intending to kill Speer.
Khadr became a cause celebre of human rights groups as well as some within the Obama administration — a list which apparently included Clinton and Koh.
“So glad we got this done,” Koh responded to Clinton’s email. “After spending the last 10 years on GTMO, at least this young man finally has another chance.”
Clinton’s and Koh’s views on Khadr are not made clear by the emails. But activists who support him have argued that as a child soldier, he was more victim than terrorist.
Last year, Khadr was moved to a medium-security prison in Canada before being granted bail by a judge in Alberta earlier this year.
The Clinton email thread confirms reports from 2010 that the Democratic presidential candidate intervened with then-Canadian foreign minister Lawrence Cannon in order to avoid what could have been an international embarrassment for the Obama administration.
According to an NBC News report at the time, Clinton called Cannon to make a deal to transfer Khadr. That allowed the Obama administration to avoid taking Khadr to trial. The move was reportedly made against the wishes of U.S. military prosecutors.
The plea agreement-and-transfer provided the administration with several benefits. It allowed Obama to escape criticism from human rights groups who opposed putting a former child soldier on trial. It also reduced the number of Gitmo detainees by one.
As Koh wrote in the newly-released email chain: “Gtmo is 1 down!! Yayy!”