Last used during World War II, the commissions are designed to deliver swift, effective punishment, but they dispense with some of the basic rights and rules of evidence that protect the innocent in American courts.
And that's raised concern both abroad and at home. So far, only four of more than 500 prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been charged with war crimes. And so far there have been no military trials. They have been shut down because of a suit filed against the president by a member of what may seem like an unlikely group of opponents: U.S. military lawyers. Correspondent Ed Bradley reports.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Swift is one of the team of military lawyers appointed by the Pentagon to defend those accused of being the nation's worst enemies.
Does he believe that the prisoners in Guantanamo are getting a fair shake? "Under the rules, as they're written right now, no way," says Swift. "The rules are written from the -- to make every possible accommodation for the prosecutor, with no thought to, 'Does this jeopardize a right of the accused?'"
Swift represents Salim Hamdan, a Yemeni and one of Osama bin Laden's former drivers, an accused al Qaeda terrorist charged with plotting to attack American civilians. Swift says Hamdan is not an al Qaeda terrorist, but an innocent bystander in the Sept. 11 attacks.
Did Hamdan not know that bin Laden was a terrorist? "He had heard news reports," says Swift. "But for him, he was an employer."
"So he was his driver, but wasn't a member of al Qaeda?" asks Bradley.
"Absolutely not," says Swift, who adds that Hamdan didn't receive any military training.
"You said that your client was in a compound with bin Laden on Sept. 11. What does he say about that day?" asks Bradley.
"He heard about 9/11 on an Afghan radio, and when he saw Osama bin Laden dancing and happy, and he put the two together, he realized that war was coming and that he had gotten sucked into this thing," says Swift.
Prosecutors won't discuss their case against Hamdan, but in court papers, they say he did receive military training at an al Qaeda camp and also delivered weapons. Hamdan has been held without trial in Guantanamo for more than three years.