Cheney 'interfered directly' to get terror plea bargain

David Edwards and Nick Juliano
Published: Tuesday October 23, 2007

Vice President Dick Cheney cut a deal with the prime minister of Australia to orchestrate a plea bargain with an Australian terror suspect that would keep him out of sight until after Australia's national elections next month, an Australian television station reported.

Cheney "interfered directly" to secure Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks' guilty plea to material support for terrorism, the Australian Broadcasting Company reported Tuesday. Cheney's intervention, according to a Harper's article cited by the ABC, was "part of a deal" with Prime Minister John Howard, who is facing a re-election fight next month.

Howard denies the deal.

Hicks will be released from an Australian prison on Dec. 29 as part of a plea agreement reached in March. The first detainee convicted by a Guantanamo military tribunal, Hicks was given a seven year jail sentence but a judge suspended all but nine months of that. Hicks was held at Guantanamo for five years before going to trial.

An unnamed military official told Harpers, "One of our staffers was present when Vice President Cheney interfered directly to get Hicks' plea bargain. He did it, apparently as part of a deal cut with Howard."

"I kept thinking: this is the sort of thing that used to go on behind the Iron Curtain, not in America," the official continued. "And then it struck me how much this entire process had disintegrated into a political charade."

The ABC also reported that Australian police hope to put Hicks under a "control order" that would require him to report regularly to police, obey a curfew and limit his communications to approved phone lines.

Critics of Howard's administration told the ABC that it was "just too convenient" that Hicks's plea deal would have him out of sight until after Australians go to the polls this year.

Intervention in prosecutions for political purposes would fit the "modus operandi [that] has marked the Bush Administration for six years," Harpers reported, citing demands from the administration to pursue politically opportune cases in the US before the 2008 presidential election.

The following video is from the Australia Broadcasting Company's ABC News, broadcast on October 23, 2007.

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