It was always clear to his defense team - comprised mostly of Seattle lawyers - that Osama bin Laden's driver was not exactly a mad bomber. As we report in Seattle Weekly's cover story today - Driving Bin Laden - Salim Hamdan wasn't even a terrorist, if you asked a real terrorist. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, considered Hamdan an ignorant lowlife from the motor pool. Or as The New York Times later reported, "Mr. Hamdan's offenses are not enumerated anywhere, but appear to include checking the oil and the tire pressure."
Yet in the fertile mind of George Bush, Bin Laden's chauffeur was more important than Bin Laden himself (of whom the president infamously said, "I truly am not that concerned about.") It was the world's most-wanted man's servant who Bush focused on, fighting the chauffeur all the way to the Supreme Court (and losing), then prosecuting him in the first American war crimes trial to be heard since World War II (and, ultimately, losing again).
Justice prevailed in this epic case thanks to Seattle University law grad and now ex-Navy attorney Charlie Swift and four attorneys from Seattle's century-old Perkins Coie law firm, particularly Harry Schneider and Joe McMillan.
They spent a good portion of the last decade in a courtroom battle with Bush and the Pentagon that continues to this day. It was an especially historic case for the Perkins attorneys, whose firm - typically the defender of well-heeled corporations - spent several million dollars providing Bin Laden's driver a civil litigation and criminal defense team for free.
It's a saga due to be turned into a big screen thriller by producer/actor George Clooney (reportedly set to play Swift, now a Seattle attorney), and co-starring his pal Matt Damon, perhaps as the accused terrorist wheelman. But, as you can see from the real-life video below, the ex-cab driver from Yemen was no raving jihadist. When it came time to talk, he talked. And that's what makes Bush's and the Pentagon's crusade to nail him so perplexing. As we note in the story, interrogators believed what Salim Hamdan said - except when he said he was no terrorist.