Michael Clayton’s next Challenge

George Clooney’s crowd has snapped up the rights to Jonathan Mahler’s legal thriller “The Challenge,” about the long campaign waged by U.S. Navy lawyer Charles Swift and Georgetown law professor Neal Katyal to ensure a fair trial for Salim Hamdan, the bodyguard and driver of Osama bin Laden.

Variety says its likely Clooney will write, direct and star (some are speculating he’ll play the smaller role of Swift, the lawyer) in the feature.

Clooney had been tracking Mahler’s story for some time, and Smoke House execs met with the writer months before the book’s recent publication. While there had been interest from other potential buyers, Clooney’s persistence is believed to have played a key role in persuading Mahler to sign with Smoke House.

Hamdan was sentenced Aug. 7 by a panel of military officers at Guantanamo Bay to a prison term of 66 months, including time already served. The Yemeni-born convict was found guilty of material support for terrorism but cleared of the more serious charges of conspiracy to commit murder, seen by some analysts as a victory for retired naval officer Swift’s efforts.