US v. Khalid Shaikh Mohammad et al; live from Gitmo

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US v. Khalid Shaikh Mohammad et al; live from Gitmo

So I am posting this from Gitmo, and we are about midway of Day two on the hearings here for this week.  Or, at least in terms of time.   There are 33 seperate motions that the judge was hoping to hear arguments on, and dispense of these motions.  Bear in mind that the actual trial isn't even close to happening.  This is preliminary motions on things like dealing with classified material, what documents will be admissable, how the defense attorneys can communicate with their clients and similiar type things.  So far we've barely touched on two of those motions.

On Sunday night we got a chance to talk to the defense attorneys and the prosecutor.  I have a videographer here with me (John Napolitano who is AWESOME) and he filmed them speaking.  Just to give you some context on who the folks are, the lady is Cheryl Bormann, who is defense counsel for one of the AQ Defendants.  (She is perhaps best known for her request that everyone in court wear a hijab.)  The second gentleman is Navy Commander Walter Ruiz, another defense attorney.   The general is Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor here, who's background is astonishingly impressive.  (Former Infantry officer, Rhodes scholar, Harvard Law Grad, and Obama classmate.)


So anyway, day 1 was.....fairly boring.  It started with a series of people testifying about whether one of the accused (Mustafa al-Hawsawi) could speak English.  My seat mate for these proceedings is a great dude from AP who wrote an article which I will cite in part, so you can get an idea:

Two U.S. federal agents on Monday defended their interrogation of a Guantanamo Bay prisoner accused of providing assistance to the Sept. 11 hijackers as a pretrial hearing resumed in the slowly unfolding war crimes proceedings for the five men charged in the attacks. [...]

"He could stop the conversation at any time," Stephen McClain, an agent with the Criminal Investigative Task Force, said under defense questioning. Later, he added: "He could leave the room at any time."

McClain and veteran James Fitzgerald of the FBI were part of a group of agents dubbed the "clean team," who were sent to Guantanamo Bay to question the lead suspects in the Sept. 11 attacks after the men were transferred to military custody after years of being held by the CIA overseas and subjected to harsh interrogations that would likely make their previous statements inadmissible in court.

You should go read Ben's piece (CLICK HERE) since he's an actual reporter, and not as prejudiced as I am.  Nonetheless, I was unconvinced by any of the defenses arguments in this regard, the guy pretty obviously spoke enough English to know what was going on.  I don't find it credible that FBI and other government people interviewed (or interrogated if you prefer) Mr Hawsawi for four days when he couldn't speak any English.  If you've ever deployed and had to talk to someone who doesn't speak English, it's a frustrating and fruitless thing after about 5 mins, and yet they talked to him for in excess of 20 hours.  But, the defense is entitled to do what they can.  (As much as most of you would prefer to skip it all, the Constitution is clear that an accused gets his day in court.)

Following the "can he speak English" fight, it turned surreal.  One defendant (Hawsawi again) has some sort of neck injury allegedly, and wanted to leave.  That wasn't much of a problem, since the requirement is only that they be there voluntarily.  But Ms Bormann's defendant (Walid bin Attash) alleged that he had really bad....let's just say stomach issues that required proximity to a bathroom facility.  The question then became a two hour discussion of whether having such a medical impediment meant that he missed the proceedings through a voluntary absence, or whether they court should shut down operations until he was well.  They ended up going into a closed session that the Defendants couldn't attend. 

This morning most of the Defendants decided (apparently voluntarily) to stay in their cells.  One of them showed up, the other four stayed on the cell block.  Todays discussion revolves around dealing with classified materials.  Explaining the nuances of these arguments would take significantly longer than I have available right now, but hopefully tomorrow I can give you a quick overview of the arguments.

In the meantime, I wanted to get this update to you guys, and will have another update tomorrow.

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.