Breaking: Hamdan gets time served?

Salim Hamdan could go home in less than six months after a military tribunal gave him a “stunningly lenient” sentence for his conviction on providing material support for terrorism. Hamdan got 66 months instead of the 30 years to life sentence recommended by prosecutors:

Salim Hamdan’s sentence of 5 1/2 years, including five years and a month already served at Guantanamo Bay, fell far short of the 30 years to life that prosecutors wanted. It now goes for mandatory review to a Pentagon official who can shorten the sentence but not extend it.

It remains unclear what will happen to Hamdan once his sentence is served, since the U.S. military has said it won’t release anyone who still represents a threat. The judge, Navy Capt. Keith Allred, said Hamdan would likely be eligible for the same administrative review process as other prisoners.

With credit for time served, Hamdan could go home about the same time George Bush leaves the White House. This certainly was not the disincentive that prosecutors requested in the sentencing, which they had hoped would strike fear into the hearts of would-be terrorists. Instead, the jury apparently felt that Hamdan didn’t represent much of a threat, nor had much involvement in planning or carrying out attacks.

Critics of military tribunals may find themselves taken aback by the leniency shown in this process. Supporters of military tribunals may also find themselves equally nonplussed about this result, assuming that such processes would treat terrorists much more strictly than civil courts. In the end, though, it may just be that the tribunal process works to justly conclude each of these cases, and that Hamdan may just be a flunky that poses no further risk to the US.