The terrorism trials at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station in Cuba have proven to be somewhat of a circus with an unknown government agency secretly censoring courtroom proceedings and the mother of a 9/11 victim claiming to be “horrified” at the lack of transparency in the military commission system.
Judicial Watch has been on the ground monitoring the proceedings at Gitmo since last week, when chaos ensued after a mysterious disruption in the audio feed during a hearing for 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM). For security reasons, the courtroom audio is delayed 40 seconds by an officer to avoid disclosing classified information, but in this case the sound abruptly cut out and the authorized officer had nothing to do with it. The judge, James Pohl, seemed confused and angrily vowed to get to the bottom of it.
Judge Pohl, an Army colonel, subsequently issued a statement assuring it would not happen again. “This is the last time that an OCA (Original Classification Authority) or any other third party will be permitted to unilaterally decide if the broadcast should be suspended,” Judge James Pohl wrote. “The commission will not permit any entity except the [court security officer] to suspend broadcast of the proceedings. Accordingly, I order the government to disconnect any ability for any third party to suspend the broadcast of these proceedings and also no third party to unilaterally suspend the broadcast of these proceedings.”
The military’s chief prosecutor, Brigadier General Mark Martins, would not disclose who was cutting the feed, though speculation has centered on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). General Martins did, however, defend the need to protect government secrets from the enemy. Failing to do so can damage public interests and national security, General Martins said to members of the media covering the war court trials at Gitmo.
This week’s proceedings involve Saudi-born Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, an al-Qaeda terrorist accused of orchestrating the October 12, 2000, attack on the Navy destroyer USS Cole. Judicial Watch was present during al-Nashiri’s 2011 arraignment where he appeared physically fit, cocky and quite relaxed for a man facing death. At a hearing for al-Nashiri today, his taxpayer-funded attorneys argued for more time to consult with ethicists about proceeding under an obviously “compromised” courtroom system.