Day 6

Military interrogator and blinded soldier react to Khadr bail decision

A former soldier wounded in the battle that led to Khadr's capture believes he's still a threat. A former military interrogator says meeting Khadr taught him how to have compassion for the enemy.

Khadr was 'acknowledged leader in Guantanamo,' says U.S. soldier wounded by Canadian

Former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr, shown in this undated image from Bowden Institution in Innisfail, Alta., was granted bail by an Alberta judge Friday. (Bowden Institution/Canadian Press)

Almost 13 years after the firefight in Afghanistan that led to Omar Khadr's capture, an Alberta judge has granted him bail. The federal government says it will appeal the ruling. The 2002 firefight killed U.S. Sgt. First Class Christopher Speer and two Afghan soldiers, and badly wounded the 15-year-old Khadr. 

Khadr was accused of throwing a grenade that killed Speer. The teen confessed to a military tribunal, was convicted and spent 10 years at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

In September 2012, Omar Khadr was transferred to a detention centre in Canada.

Day 6 has reaction to the Khadr bail decision from two U.S. military men who crossed Khadr's path: Sgt. Layne Morris who was blinded in the 2002 firefight that led to Khadr's capture, and Damien Corsetti — a former interrogator at the Bagram Air Base detention centre in Afghanistan where Khadr was held.


Layne Morris, what is your reaction to this news from Edmonton that Omar Kadhr is being granted bail?

Well I I think it's a mistake for the long term security national security interests of both Canada and the United States and Western civilized society. 

That's my judgment based on the things that I've read and my experience with him both at the trial and out in the field of combat and from the evidence that was presented at his trial.

But the Crown in Canada did not present any evidence that suggested that he was a threat. What do you think about that?

I think the Crown wasn't doing a very good job since Omar Khadr's done nothing to demonstrate that he's not a threat and I don't I don't understand this assumption that because a certain amount of time has passed they're no longer a threat based on no evidence whatsoever. He's already proven what he is capable of doing what he wants to do and I'd love for somebody to show me some evidence to the contrary. He was the acknowledged leader in Guantanamo. He was referred to at trial as having rock-star status.

He was leading the group in prayer on a daily basis and has demonstrated his willingness to die for his beliefs and an accomplishment of killing U.S. personnel that opposed him. So this is a young man who is set up to be a leader of radical Islamic groups wherever they are. And we've seen nothing as a demonstration of what he'd done to renounce that at all. He simply sits there quiet and lets people speak for him. His attorneys have very cleverly just instructed him and his entire family, the first family of terrorism in Canada, to simply be quiet and let other people speak on their behalf.

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He was fifteen years old at the time of the firefight that injured you in July 2002. What do you say to those who say that he was a child and that he shouldn't be held accountable in the same way that an adult would be?

Well we hold children accountable for their actions all the time. Fifteen-year-olds are entirely capable of committing adult heinous crimes. They do so all the time and we punish them as adults all the time. And Omar Khadr is no different. That's what my opinion. I think terrorism is a bad thing and we have to fight terrorism any chance we can especially in our own countries. And to allow an admitted and accomplished terrorist to simply roam free in your country out of some misguided sense of he's been punished enough. That doesn't make any sense.

His convictions, in the military commission, may now be struck down with this appeal. That's what is pending, Khadr's war crimes convictions before the U.S. military commission. If that happens, if he's granted that appeal, what will you do?

I won't do anything different than I've always done, I guess. I don't lay awake at night thinking about Omar Khadr. I'll continue to live my life. I certainly hope that I won't wake up one morning and read a newspaper about how Omar Khadr has rejoined the battle and has taken Canadian lives American lives or whatever. That would be sad. So I hope that that doesn't happen.


Damien Corsetti, Layne Morris makes the case that Omar Khadr remains a real threat to security. Do you think he's a threat?

Personally I have serious doubts if he's a threat. I can't say, after the time he spent incarcerated in Guantanamo and in the Canadian penal system, what his current state of mind is. But I would lean towards no.

Layne Morris also dismissed the notion that Khadr should have been treated as a child he was 15 at the time of the incident in Afghanistan. How would you respond to Layne Morris' claim that Khadr's age doesn't and shouldn't matter?

As far as my opinion on that matter is you either believe in international law or you don't. You can't only support it when it's convenient to the cause that you believe in. As far as international law is concerned, I believe that it says very clearly that Mr. Khadr should be treated as a child soldier.

Take me back to the first time that you saw Omar Khadr when he came into the Bagram Detention Center in Afghanistan. What was his condition?

The first time I actually came in contact with him was a field hospital at the Bagram Air Base. He was fresh off of the battlefield and there were nurses and doctors were doing what they could to save his life. At that time he had a very large wound in his chest. He looked pretty worse for wear. 

Were you aware of how young he was?

No I didn't know that he was 15 but you could tell he was very young.

What was the impression that you were left with when you did realize how young he was, what was the conclusion you made? 

The conclusion that I made was that he shouldn't be there based on his age and based on treaties that the United States has signed into on warfare concerning the treatment of prisoners

And was there anything about his behavior or the things that he said that indicated to you what his real age was?
Just the things that interested him like you know he was he was interested in car magazines. He liked to talk about video games in basketball and...not typical Jihadi conversations.

But back to what you said earlier that you thought that he wouldn't be a threat in the real world other. People who have been released from detention in Guantanamo have ended up in the battlefield again why would Khadr be any different?

Well I'd like to clarify...I would like to say that I don't I don't know if he's a threat and I don't know because I haven't spoken to Omar Kadhr since 2002. And so I don't know what being in Guantanamo and in a Canadian federal prison has tends not to work wonders on most people, as far as their psyche and their beliefs. But my main issue with Khadr is not if he's radicalized, it's not did he do it. My issue with Omar Khadr is that it's a violation of international law to charge him for war crimes.

Did you think about Omar Khadr after he left Bagram?

I certainly do...I think about Omar Khadr a lot. I thank Omar Khadr because he definitely helped keep me, uh, I'm not going to say I was exactly a nice guy over there but he definitely kept me a lot kinder than I would have been had I not known him.

Why was that, what did he do...what did he bring to you that changed the way that you behaved?
Humanity. And that's a very rare commodity in a war zone. If it hadn't been for him I think I would have lost even more than I already did. He made me have compassion for someone who was the enemy. It is something that I value today.

If you had a chance to speak with Omar Khadr again what would you say to him?

I'd tell him I was sorry for having taken part in the U.S. campaign against him. For having anything to do with that. For not doing anything more, for not speaking up for him over there more than I did. I would just apologize to Omar Khadr and I would congratulate him if he is granted bail on his freedom however permanent or temporary it may be.