WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld the conspiracy conviction of a Guantanamo Bay detainee who once served as Osama bin Laden’s personal assistant.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 6-3 that a military tribunal was authorized to convict Ali Hamza al-Bahlul of conspiracy charges.
Bahlul was tried and convicted before a military commission under a system created after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
A divided three-judge panel of the same court threw out the conviction last year, but that decision was set aside after the Obama administration asked the full appeals court to reconsider the case.
The previous ruling could have limited the government’s ability to prosecute terror suspects outside of the civilian justice system.
But in the latest ruling, a majority of judges did not agree on the reasons for the outcome. At issue is whether the Constitution allows Congress to make conspiracy to commit war crimes an offense triable by military commissions, even though conspiracy is not recognized as an international war crime.
Four judges said the Constitution does permit Congress to make such a determination. Judge Brett Kavanaugh, writing for the four, said foreign nations, through international law or otherwise, cannot have “a de facto veto power” over Congress’ determination of which war crimes a military tribunal may consider. Kavanaugh also cited historical precedent going back more than 150 years.
“The two most important military commission precedents in U.S. history — the trials of the Lincoln conspirators and the Nazi saboteurs — were trials for the offense of conspiracy,” he said.
Two other judges voted to uphold the conviction, but did so for different reasons.
In dissent, three judges said “although the government might well be entitled to detain al-Bahlul as an enemy belligerent, it does not have the power to switch the Constitution on and off at will.” They said Bahlul’s prosecution on conspiracy charges “exceeded the scope” of what is allowed for military tribunals under the Constitution.
Steven Vladeck, a University of Texas School of Law professor specializing in national security, said the lack of a majority ruling means military commissions will continue to try similar conspiracy cases “even though uncertainty will persist over the validity of doing so.”
Bahlul was arrested by local officials in Pakistan after the Sept. 11 attacks and turned over to the U.S. military, which transferred him to Guantanamo Bay. The Pentagon said he produced propaganda videos glorifying al-Qaida and assisted with preparations for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes.
In 2008, a military commission convicted him of soliciting others to commit war crimes, providing material support to a terrorist organization and conspiracy. The appeals court threw out the first two convictions in 2014 and gave Bahlul another chance to contest the conspiracy charge.
He continues to be held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
The world outside the U.S. figured prominently in the third and final presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Here’s a brief look at the countries there were up for discussion:
Hillary Clinton says she’s “encouraged” by the Iraqi-led offensive to retake the city of Mosul.
Donald Trump says it’s only an issue because the Obama administration — and Clinton while at the State Department — pulled troops from Iraq in the first place.
U.S. troops left Iraq at the demand of the Iraqi government at the time after Baghdad refused to sign a status of forces agreement to keep them there.
Clinton outlined her military plan to take out the Islamic State group. She said coalition forces should push the fight into the group’s Syrian headquarters in Raqqa after Mosul is retaken.
Trump has not detailed his plan and said, “what ever happened to the element of surprise?”
Iraqi officials say they wanted residents of Mosul to prepare for the offensive to retake Mosul and have urged them not to flee.
Donald Trump asserted that U.S. involvement in Aleppo, Syria, is not worthwhile.
Trump says Aleppo is a “humanitarian nightmare” but suggests that keeping Assad in power may be better than replacing him, because Assad and Russia both oppose the Islamic State group.
Trump says the United States would be in better shape if it had “done nothing” in Syria.
The United States has protested Russia’s bombardment of Aleppo and Syrian actions against the opposition, but it has also engaged in ceasefire talks with Russia and other regional powers and has Special Forces on the ground in northern Syria. It has also backed down from its demand that Assad immediately step down.
Clinton said Trump has been “cavalier, even casual” about the use of nuclear weapons, and the idea that it would be acceptable for U.S. allies such as Japan and South Korea to acquire them on their own. “Nuclear competition in Asia, you said, you know, ‘Go ahead. Enjoy yourselves, folks,'” she said.
Trump responded, “All I said is we have to renegotiate” defense agreements with other countries that the U.S. can no longer afford. “When I said Japan and Germany and … South Korea, these are very rich, powerful countries. Saudi Arabia, nothing but money. We protect Saudi Arabia. Why aren’t they paying?”
Seoul says it paid $851 million last year to the United States, which was reportedly about half of what it costs to maintain U.S. troops in South Korea. Japan pays $1.8 billion a year and hosts about 50,000 U.S. troops.
South Korea’s pursuit of its own nuclear weapons has been raised by some conservative lawmakers, but many South Koreans believe such a move would have unacceptably dire consequences in its relationships with both Washington and Beijing.
At a Mexico City barbecue restaurant that could have dropped out of Austin, Texas, an assortment of Mexicans and expats guffawed at Donald Trump’s call to expel “bad hombres” and toasted each time he or Hillary Clinton said “Mexico.”
About 200 people gathered Wednesday night to watch the final U.S. presidential debate. There was fun in collective viewing — complete with bingo cards with things said by the candidates. But there was also genuine interest from Mexicans who have watched their currency swing in recent weeks with the polls.
Alejandra Cardenas, a video director from Mexico City, says Mexico’s economy is clearly tied to the U.S. and that’s why so many Mexicans are there watching the debate closely. She says Mexico will be among the countries most affected.
Trump is widely unpopular among Mexicans due to his disparaging remarks about immigrants and his repeated vows to build a border wall and make their country pay for it.
NEW YORK (AP) — Amazon’s own video store will no longer have the starring role on the company’s Fire TV streaming devices.
Software updates coming this year will give movies and TV shows from Netflix, HBO and other competitors equal prominence on the devices’ home screen. The approach is similar to one Apple took when it refreshed its Apple TV device last year.
Amazon’s Fire TV has offered solid performance at reasonable prices, but its home screen has been cluttered with Amazon products — whether to rent or buy, or offered at no extra charge through Amazon’s $99-a-year Prime program. That’s made it tough to find video from competing providers without turning to a voice-search feature that, until recently, excluded Netflix. For the most part, finding video typically required opening a service’s app first.
Now, competing services will be offered space on the home screen. Netflix, for instance, could choose to highlight its original series “Stranger Things” alongside personalized recommendations. Netflix could also include a short video trailer that plays on the home screen.
And while Amazon has long had a watch list for viewers to keep track of what they want to watch, choosing a title has directed the viewer back to Amazon’s store. Now, Amazon will offer viewers a choice of providers. If a video is available for free through Netflix, for instance, that will be the most prominent option, even if Amazon’s own store is selling the same title.
The development comes as leading video services make major investments in original shows, making it difficult for any single service to fulfill all of a viewer’s needs. An Amazon-centric approach penalizes viewers looking for not just Amazon’s “Transparent” but also Netflix’s “Luke Cage” and Hulu’s “The Mindy Project.”
The refreshed Fire TV Stick, which begins shipping Thursday for $40, will get the free software update first, followed by the standard $100 Fire TV device released last year. Both will get the updates by the end of the year. Amazon says older devices will get the updates, too, but no timetable was given.
MEXICO CITY (AP) — At a Mexico City barbecue restaurant that could have dropped out of Austin, Texas an assortment of Mexicans and expats toasted each time Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton said “Mexico” and guffawed when the Republican candidate promised once-again to deport the bad guys.
But among the 200 people gathered Wednesday night to watch the final U.S. presidential debate there was an awareness of how their neighbor to the north impacts their lives. There was fun in collective viewing — complete with bingo cards with things said by the candidates — and ribs and brisket were served from the side of a silver camper.
However, the campaign seems to have a real impact in Mexico where citizens have watched the peso swing in recent weeks with the polls and are flooded with news from the campaign trail.
“It’s affecting us right now,” said Alejandra Cardenas, a video director from Mexico City. “Our economy is clearly linked, that’s why we’re all here together.”
That impact extends beyond Mexico though. Colombian postdoctoral student Natalia Guevara Jaramillo said she opposes Trump’s stigmatization of immigrants.
“What happens in the United States directly affects the entire continent and a large part of the world,” she said.
Trump’s comments on immigration have been especially harsh.
He set the tone in declaring his candidacy last year when he talked about Mexico sending “rapists” to the U.S. His attacks of Mexico have only continued since, blaming the country for stealing jobs and filling the U.S. with heroin.
During a segment on immigration during Wednesday’s debate, Trump explained again how he would halt illegal immigration by building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and deport those in the country illegally, including “bad hombres,” or bad guys.
“I think the way that Trump has talked about Mexicans from the start of the campaign is to call them rapists, criminals, he hasn’t changed,” said Mexican Santiago Betancourt. “I don’t think it’s a presidential discourse and we saw it today in the debate; he’s talking about the wall, he’s talking about immigration and the only thing that occurs to him to say in that moment is that in the U.S. there are ‘bad hombres’ and that they have to get them out of the country.”
Associated Press video journalist Teresa DeMiguel contributed to this report.
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Julio Urias cruised through three hitless innings to begin Game 4 of the NL Championship Series. The Los Angeles Dodgers’ 20-year-old rookie starter seemed to be thriving under the spotlight.
Then the lights went out for Urias and the Dodgers.
In one miserable night at Chavez Ravine, they squandered a chance to take control of this series and lost their opportunity to win the pennant at home.
The Chicago Cubs ended their 21-inning scoreless streak with a four-run fourth against Urias, and the youngest pitcher in big league history to start a postseason game took his first playoff loss in the Dodgers’ 10-2 defeat Wednesday.
“I felt comfortable in that situation, but I just didn’t get the results,” Urias said through a translator.
Game 5 is Thursday at Dodger Stadium, with Kenta Maeda scheduled to pitch against Cubs lefty Jon Lester. Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts reiterated he won’t start ace Clayton Kershaw on short rest this time, putting the three-time Cy Young Award winner in line for Game 6 on Saturday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Roberts said Kershaw was eager to pitch, but Game 5 “isn’t a deciding game. It’s not an elimination game. And I think the accumulation of his usage over the last 10 days plays a factor in our decision.”
Urias was in fine shape until the fourth inning, and so were the Dodgers’ plans to keep a powerful Chicago lineup off the board. The left-hander from Mexico didn’t pitch much down the stretch for the NL West champions, who gave him a postseason start with the hope he could realize his ample potential in October.
Urias walked two Cubs in the first three innings, but otherwise kept them mired in their slump — until Ben Zobrist led off the fourth with a clever bunt single. Urias acknowledged the bunt caught him off guard.
“That’s baseball,” he said. “Even if it’s a bad hit, it’s a hit. That’s how they scored their runs.”
Two more singles and an RBI groundout later, Addison Russell’s first homer of the postseason put the Cubs up 4-0 and well on their way to a series-tying win.
Adrian Gonzalez and several other Dodgers thought things started to unravel two innings earlier when the video review of a close play at the plate didn’t go their way.
Gonzalez was called out while trying to score from second on Andrew Toles’ single, and the ruling was upheld after replays that were interpreted both ways.
“I knew I was safe,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve got plenty of still frames that prove I was safe. Unfortunately, it turned into a trial, and they said there was not enough evidence.”
Gonzalez believed his run, which would have put the Dodgers up 1-0 and kept the inning going with two runners on, would have given Urias a cushion in a high-pressure situation.
“It completely changes his way of pitching,” Gonzalez said. “Now he gets one guy on base, and he’s trying not to let that one run score, where if we’ve got that lead, he feels more comfortable. He attacks it a bit more. It changes everything. One little thing can change the outcome.”
While Urias didn’t finish strong, the Dodgers’ shaky defense played a big role in the collapse as well. Los Angeles hadn’t made four errors in a playoff game since the 1974 NLCS, but Toles’ throwing error on Willson Contreras’ soft single to left field allowed Zobrist to easily score the Cubs’ first run since Game 1.
“We played a very sloppy game overall,” Gonzalez said. “Sometimes that happens. Obviously that was a big reason we lost today, but we’re confident we’ll play better.”
Down 5-0 in the fifth, the Dodgers still had a chance to get back in it. They loaded the bases against reliever Mike Montgomery, who accidentally deflected Justin Turner’s comebacker into shallow left field for a two-run single.
But Gonzalez and Kike Hernandez failed to reach base, and the Cubs turned it into a laugher moments later with a five-run sixth. The Dodgers’ defense chipped in again, with Hernandez and Joc Pederson making throwing errors while the Cubs batted around .
Thousands of Dodgers fans hit the freeways early, unwilling to watch a healthy contingent of Cubs rooters celebrate.
Now the NLCS is down to a best-of-three, with the Dodgers still two wins from their first pennant since 1988, and the AL champion Cleveland Indians waiting for a World Series opponent next week.
TORONTO (AP) — For the Cleveland Indians, the script was the same every game — hope for the best from whoever they started, then count on Andrew Miller and the bullpen to close it out.
That plan seemed especially dicey in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series, with lightly used Ryan Merritt on the mound.
But out of nowhere, the rookie delivered.
Merritt coolly kept the Indians ahead until reinforcements arrived, and Cleveland earned its first trip to the World Series since 1997 by blanking the Toronto Blue Jays 3-0 Wednesday.
The 24-year-old lefty defied expectations, shutting down the powerful Blue Jays before exiting in the fifth inning. Thanks to a most unlikely pitching performance, a most unexpected team won the ALCS 4-1.
Cleveland, which has never hosted a World Series opener, will play Game 1 at Progressive Field on Tuesday night against the Chicago Cubs or Los Angeles Dodgers.
Manager Terry Francona’s team will try to augment what’s already been a scintillating year in Cleveland after LeBron James and the Cavaliers earned the city’s first major pro sports championship since 1964.
The Indians’ title drought dates to 1948. In 1997, they let a one-run lead get away in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 7 and lost to the Florida Marlins in the 11th.
“We always said if we could do it with this group it would be so special because this is as close to a family feel as you can get in a professional setting. So for that part of it, it is beyond feeling good,” Francona said.
The Dodgers led the Cubs 2-1 going into Game 4 of the NLCS on Wednesday night. Cleveland didn’t play either club this season.
Miller, acquired from the New York Yankees in a midseason trade, was selected the ALCS MVP as the Indians took their sixth pennant.
“I feel like I’ve said the word ‘special’ a million times in the last 20 or 30 minutes. But it’s the truth. It’s a blast to be a part of,” Miller said.
With all of 11 major league innings under his belt — and only one start, on Sept. 30 — Merritt took the mound and looked just like a seasoned vet . The lefty retired the first 10 batters and allowed a mere two hits before being pulled after 4 1/3 innings.
“I know they were counting on me,” Merritt said. “Before the game, they came and told me they had my back, everybody had my back, good or bad. So that takes some pressure off, and I just went out there and pitched and trusted my team.”
Merritt got taps on his heart and hat from teammates when he left the mound. Then it was up to Cleveland’s tireless relievers to hold a three-run lead against the wild-card Blue Jays.
Miller again did most of the heavy lifting, going 2 2/3 innings before Cody Allen worked the ninth for a save . Winning pitcher Bryan Shaw tossed an inning before Miller came in.
Carlos Santana and Coco Crisp homered for the Indians.
With starting pitchers Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer dealing with injuries, the Indians kept defying the odds.
Cleveland overtook defending World Series champion Kansas City and topped a $196 million Detroit team to win the AL Central, then put an abrupt end to Big Papi’s career, sweeping David Ortiz and the Boston Red Sox in the Division Series.
The Indians stayed on a roll in the ALCS, shutting down the banging Blue Jays. Cleveland won despite hitting .168 in the series, with slick-fielding shortstop Francisco Lindor leading the way in going 7 for 19.
Toronto lost in the ALCS for the second straight year.
“I’m sure there will be some disappointments and grumbling and complaining about how you fell short again, but that’s not coming from me,” manager John Gibbons said. “Because I know what these guys did, and I think it’s a pretty good accomplishment. The key is we want to take that next step one of these days. Hopefully, it’s next year.”
Merritt — a Texas native drafted in the 16th round by Cleveland in 2011 — hadn’t pitched in a game since his late September start, although he’d gotten some work in this month in the instructional league at the Indians’ spring training complex in Arizona.
A day after Toronto averted a sweep, the crowd at the roaring Rogers Centre expected the Blue Jays to roll over the rookie.
Maybe the Blue Jays did, too.
“With our experience in our lineup, I’m pretty sure he’s going to be shaking in his boots more than we are,” Toronto slugger Jose Bautista said after Game 4.
After the Blue Jays were eliminated, Bautista took a different tone.
“He seemed to make the right pitches at the right time,” Bautista said. “Hats off to him.”
After the game, Cleveland players chanted “boots” in the celebration, urging Merritt to pull cowboy boots from his locker and shake them.
Merritt struck out three batters in the first two innings — all looking — and didn’t allow a baserunner until Josh Donaldson’s one-out single in the fourth. After Russell Martin’s bloop single with one out in the fifth, Francona leaned again on a bullpen that soaked up 8 1/3 innings in a Game 3 win Monday.
Shaw pitched an inning, and Miller came on with one out in the sixth and a runner on. Donaldson bounced into a double play on Miller’s first pitch, and the tall lefty made it through the seventh and eighth with little trouble before giving way to Allen.
Cleveland took a 1-0 lead in the first when Mike Napoli doubled and left fielder Ezequiel Carrera misplayed the ball off the wall for an error. Lindor scored from first on the play.
Santana and Crisp added solo shots in the third and fourth off Toronto starter Marco Estrada to put the AL Central champions up 3-0.
Merritt was the second pitcher to start a postseason game with only one previous regular-season start. Matt Moore of Tampa Bay did it in 2011 in Game 1 of the Division Series against Texas. Moore pitched seven scoreless innings that day.
James posted video on his Instagram account of him and the Cavs watching the game’s final out at a crowded Cleveland sports bar. James, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith and others were gathered around a table by the front door, with fans pouring out into the street to watch.
Indians: Francona said before the game that Bauer was supposed to have his lacerated right pinkie looked at by a doctor again. The idea was to see if the right-hander could potentially pitch out of the bullpen at all during this series after being lifted when he was bleeding in the first inning of Game 3.
Now the question is whether Bauer can be of any help in the World Series.
“Obviously, he needs to heal, but he can’t just not throw,” Francona said.
Bauer sliced his pinkie last week repairing one of the drones he enjoys flying as a hobby. During the boozy clubhouse celebration after Game 5, Bauer had his right arm wrapped in protective plastic.
Indians: Cleveland returns home and rests up for the World Series.
Blue Jays: Toronto faces an uncertain offseason. Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Michael Saunders are in the final year of their contracts.
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister