The military judge overseeing the trial for alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four others has ruled that lawyers cannot make public even unclassified materials.
The ruling by the judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, follows an order on Dec. 6 in which he directed that any evidence or discussion about harsh interrogation techniques used against the five men also be kept secret. He issued the ruling despite accusations by human rights groups that the government was trying to hide the fact the men were tortured.
The latest decision, issued Dec. 20 but just released, marks the second time the judge has sided with government prosecutors at the U.S. naval base on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in what will probably be the only trial involving alleged participants in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Pohl also ordered the names of the jurors be kept secret.
Upset with the back-to-back rulings, members of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, as well as a consortium of attorneys representing various media outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, are continuing to pursue legal challenges to Pohl’s orders.
Under the new order, the attorneys cannot share unclassified information dealing with law enforcement and the military, nor surveillance information, medical records, autopsy reports and the names of the military commission jurors, witnesses and others connected to detention operations.
None of the material, Pohl said, “shall be disseminated to the media.” But the judge allowed the disclosure of some unclassified material in pretrial legal briefs and during pretrial hearings, as well as the trial.
In another development, President Obama this week signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which supports overall military operations but also puts on hold his plan to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay — a pledge he repeated in October during his run for reelection.
Instead, the act extends restrictions blocking detainee transfers through the end of September, putting off for at least nine months any attempt by the administration to shut down the prison.
“President Obama has utterly failed the first test of his second term, even before Inauguration Day,” said Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “His signature means indefinite detention without charge or trial, as well as [that] the illegal military commissions will be extended.”
There are 166 prisoners at the detention camp.
Use the Farce, Obama. Is the real threat to ‘National Security’ that everyone will find out what really happened, then come unglued, rip D.C. apart and take back the country? That would indeed cause security problems, so National Security could be the real reason to hold this trial in a dark room. Why else? Everyone already knows what supposedly happened on 9/11 and how. It’s all in the 9/11 commission report, right?
“We’re profoundly disappointed by the military judge’s decision, which didn’t even address the serious First Amendment issues at stake here,” Hina Shamsi, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in an advisory.
“The government wanted to ensure that the American public would never hear the defendants’ accounts of illegal CIA torture, rendition and detention, and the military judge has gone along with that shameful plan,” Shamsi added. “For now, the most important terrorism trial of our time will be organized around judicially approved censorship of the defendants’ own thoughts, experiences and memories of US torture. The decision undermines the government’s claim that the military commission system is transparent and deals a grave blow to its legitimacy.”
Five terrorism suspects, including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), are scheduled to be tried in the military court next year.
Serious concerns about Mohammed’s treatment in US custody have been raised. The US has admitted to waterboarding KSM 183 times. Waterboarding is a torture technique that consists of drowning a subject and then interrupting the drowning process before death occurs. It is banned under the federal anti-torture statute and the War Crimes Act as well as under international law. KSM claims he was also subjected to other torture techniques.
KSM claims that as a result of his torture, he made false confessions about his role masterminding the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people.
The CIA videotaped interrogations in which terrorism suspects were waterboarded and subjected to other illegal tortures, euphemistically referred to as “enhanced,” “harsh” or “severe” interrogation techniques. But some of those tapes were destroyed in 2005 on the orders of CIA official Jose Rodriguez, who later explained that he was “just getting rid of some ugly visuals.”
The very legitimacy of the military commission system has been called into question not only by human rights advocates but also by no less an authority than the United States Supreme Court. In the 2006 Hamdan v. Rumsfeld decision, the justices ruled that the Guantánamo military commissions established by the George W. Bush administration lack “the power to proceed because its structures and procedures violate both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions.”
Colonel Morris Davis, once lead prosecutor on the GITMO military commissions, called the trials “rigged from the start” and claims he was told point-blank by top Bush lawyer Jim Haynes that acquittals were unacceptable. Col. Davis quit in disgust, explaining that he felt that “full, fair and open trials were not possible under the current system.” Four other military prosecutors, Maj. Robert Preston, Capt. John Carr, Capt. Carrie Wolf and Darrel J. Vandeval, all requested transfers from the GITMO commissions because they also felt that the proceedings were rigged. Maj. Preston expressed concerns over the lack of evidence against some detainees but was told by the chief prosecutor that evidence was not a prerequisite for conviction. …