09/07/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

How Is Driving Bin Laden A War Crime?

Among the many oddities of the U.S.'s first war crimes trial since World War II is this: The war crime for which Salim Hamdan was convicted, material support of terrorism, has never before been considered a war crime.

As the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service put it in a report (PDF) last year, "Defining as a war crime the 'material support for terrorism' does not appear to be supported by historical precedent."

Hamdan was not convicted of being involved in any plots against civilians. Rather, he was found to have supported al-Qaida "through his service as a driver." There is little doubt that chauffeuring and occasionally serving as a bodyguard to Osama bin Laden violates criminal law. But "war crimes" are a different matter.

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