Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement this morning that five accused 9/11 conspirators held at Guantanamo will be tried in civilian court in New York didn't deal with one of the Obama administration's most difficult problems, what to do with Mohammed al Qahtani, a sixth conspirator who once faced military commission charges, but whose treatment was so bad at Guantanamo that the Pentagon's so-called convening authority, Susan Crawford, refused to let the case go forward.
Qahtani is still listed on the Pentagon's Web site among the Sept. 11 co-conspirators, but the site notes that the charges were dismissed. By rights, he should be headed to to New York with his colleagues.
But he's not, and there's no explanation yet for why not. As you may recall, Bob Woodward reported in the Washington Post in January that Crawford felt Qahtani's treatment "met the legal definition of torture" and that that was why she didn't agree to press forward with the charges.
The decision not to try him in New York, and the likelihood he won't be tried before a military commission, means Qahtani probably fits into that still unannounced netherworld of people who'll just be held forever. Qahtani has been suspected of being the missing 20th hijacker who didn't make it into the United States because a Customs official grew suspicious when he arrived by air in Orlando. 9/11 lead hijacker Mohammed Atta was at the airport to pick him up, subsequent investigation showed, but Qahtani was put back on a plane to Saudi Arabia.