First conviction unlikely to help Obama shut Gitmo

The first court conviction of a Guantanamo Bay detainee did little to push President Barack Obama closer to shuttering the island prison, making it increasingly likely his campaign promisewill remain unmet by the time his current term expires.

Jurors in New York City on Wednesday convicted Ahmed Ghailani of conspiracy to blow up government buildings in the al-Qaida attacks on two U.S. embassies in 1998, but they acquitted him on more than 280 other charges. He is the only person transferred from Guantanamo Bayfor trial since the U.S. began filling the military prison in Cuba eight years ago.

In some ways, the conviction was a vindication for an administration that believes the judicial system established by the Constitution has proved itself capable of handling terrorism cases.

Predictions of new terrorist attacks and huge police expenses surrounding the trial never materialized. Ghailani now faces 20 years to life in prison, longer than three of the four sentences handed down by military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay.

Despite the acquittals, which included murder counts for each of the 224 people killed in the bombings, the Justice Department said it was pleased Ghailani faces up to life in prison and said it would seek that sentence.

But senior officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss private discussions, conceded that the one-count conviction, combined with big electoral wins for Republicans this month, will make it harder to close the prison.