It's no secret that the Guantanamo Bay detention center is a huge government money-suck.
On Monday, the first day of the final week of hearings in the 9/11 case during President Obama's tenure, the Guantanamo military commission was focused on whether one of the five accused men had sufficiently recovered from hemorrhoid surgery to sit in the courtroom.
Among the many questions Donald Trump will have to consider when he takes office in January is whether to keep trying to prosecute the five alleged masterminds of the 9/11 terror attacks in the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay.
The military commission system is uniquely bad at bringing alleged terrorists to justice.
The problem with the Guantanamo military commissions is not the defendants' right to appear at hearings in their own trial. It's that the government keeps meddling in the cases in such cockamamie ways that they have to adjourn for months at a time while the lawyers scramble to figure out how to respond. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Watching the procedural details getting worked out can get pretty boring, which is why you won't hear many news reports about it. But underlying this dragged-out ho-hum process is a critical fact: The government could have avoided putting itself on trial and instead focused on seeking accountability for the mass murder that took place simply by conceding its mistakes from the beginning and working out an accommodation in an experienced federal civilian court.
It shouldn't have been such a difficult issue. After all, defendants on trial for mass murder in a death penalty case often aren't happy with how things are going. That may include being disappointed with their lawyers. But that's in federal court. The military commissions are different.
President Obama has been saying for the past eight years that he wants to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center. Although Congress hasn't made it easy, his insistence on continuing to prosecute these cases in the military commissions only undermines the credibility of his convictions.