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Thread: Key 9/11 Suspect To Be Tried In New York

  1. #131
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    Jan 2005
    Prosecutor Says Reformed Guantanamo Trials Ensure Justice

    (Gold9472: Crapaganda.)

    By Jim Garamone
    American Forces Press Service

    FORT MEADE, Md., April 12, 2012 – The chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba took exception with defense lawyers’ characterizations of proceedings on the base as being done without the protections of the U.S. Constitution.

    Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins told a small news conference at the base that the reformed military commissions provide the protections of the U.S. Constitution and will follow the procedures of U.S. federal courts and military courts martials.

    “All officials in the federal government have an obligation within their areas of responsibility to help fulfill these requirements, which are among the fundamental guarantees of fairness and justice demanded by our values,” Martins said.

    Martins spoke at the conclusion of a hearing on motions made for the trial of alleged Cole bombing mastermind Abd al-Rahim Hussein Mohammed Abdu al-Nashiri. The bombing killed 17 U.S. sailors and wounded 39 in Aden, Yemen in October 2000. Al-Nashiri is charged with capital crimes and could be put to death if found guilty. This tinges every decision the commission makes.

    Defense motions questioned the prosecution on constitutional grounds, including that the charges violate the equal protection clause, that it was charging him under an ex post facto law, and that it was a bill of attainder. Trial judge Army Col. James Pohl denied all. He further denied a request for all documents given to the defense team be translated into Arabic. There are more than 70,000 pages to date.

    The judge granted more time for the defense to present him with a theory of the case, their request for a Yemeni investigator, letters asking for Yemeni evidence and a motion asking for the amount of money and resources the government has expended on this prosecution.

    Martins said the scene in the Guantanamo Bay courtroom proved the adversarial nature of American jurisprudence was alive and healthy in the reformed military commissions program.

    “Contrary to dark suggestions of some whose minds appear already made up to oppose military commissions regardless of how they are conducted, these protections are implemented by officers, I submit, are worthy of the public trust,” Martins said.

    In the news conference, Martins listed the rights Al-Nashiri has. The defendant is innocent until proven guilty. He has the right to present evidence, the right to cross-examine witnesses and compel the appearance of witnesses in his defense. The U.S. government has provided more than $100,000 to fund defense requests, which include a full time investigator, a translator and four lawyers – two military and two civilian.

    The al-Nashiri prosecution is complicated, the general said. It is further complicated because the crime was 12 years ago, and in another country. Federal trials have stretched years in similar situations, he said.

    “Those who state or imply that what you are seeing here would not happen in the federal systems are simply wrong,” the general said.

    The trials at Guantanamo, while few, are important to the United States and to justice, and are worth every penny invested in them, he said.

    “Not only must we continue to pursue the truth for the victims of these bombings, but we must also pursue it because that is what justice requires,” he said. “A civilized and open society facing very real and modern security threats can demand no less.”
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  2. #132
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    Jan 2005
    A military trial for alleged 9/11 terrorists is unlikely to lead to justice
    Bureaucratic and legal bungles – and torture – have undermined any prospect of a fair trial for the five key Guantánamo detainees

    Nick Fielding, Friday 13 April 2012 06.33 EDT

    After almost 10 years of incarceration, US officials have announced that five of the most important prisoners left in Guantánamo Bay are finally to go on trial in a capital military tribunal where, if found guilty, they are likely to be executed.

    By far the most important prisoner is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – known as KSM – who together with his co-accused Ramzi bin al-Shibh, is widely recognised as the mastermind behind the planning of the 9/11 attacks on America. The others are KSM's nephew Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Walid bin Attash and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi. All five men were arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and 2003.

    The military tribunal is the latest development in an extraordinarily convoluted and distorted legal saga that has already damaged the prospects of a fair trial for any of the accused. All of these men have been held in secret CIA "black sites" around the world, for months or years on end. KSM, who was captured in March 2003 at the home of a Pakistani military officer in the heart of a military camp in Rawalpindi, was waterboarded 183 times during the almost three-and-a-half years he spent in this maze of secret prisons. Waterboarding is an extreme form of torture which, although it leaves no physical marks, makes the victim believe he is about to drown. Only in September 2006 did KSM arrive at Guantánamo Bay.

    Not surprisingly, he revealed a wealth of information about the way in which the 9/11 attacks were organised, as well as his role in numerous other attacks and plots. In fact, as he first told the Red Cross in October 2006, he provided the information that his interrogators wanted to hear in order to stop the torture.

    At his first combatant status review tribunal in 2007 he admitted to an extraordinary catalogue of terrorist attacks, many of which he was responsible for, others merely vague ideas. Those admissions included responsibility for the 9/11 operation "from A to Z", the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing, the decapitation of journalist Daniel Pearl, recruiting shoe bomber Richard Reid, the Bali nightclub bombing, a plot to bomb and destroy the Panama Canal, plans to assassinate former US president Jimmy Carter, Pope John Paul II, Bill Clinton and Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, plots to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge, the Sears Tower in Chicago, Heathrow airport, Big Ben, the New York Stock Exchange, various nuclear power plants, Nato headquarters in Brussels and numerous other targets, both real and imagined. It was one of the most comprehensive confessions of all time.

    In February 2008 the US Department of Defence announced that charges had been sworn against six detainees at Guantánamo – the same group who were charged a few days ago, plus an Arab who had been sent to join the 9/11 hijackers, but who had been refused entry to the US. The military trial actually began in June 2008, witnessed by 35 journalists in an adjoining room who heard KSM decline legal representation for what was looking increasingly like a show trial.

    The proceedings dragged on until December 2008 when, in an unexpected move, all the accused told the military judge they wished to plead guilty. Three months later they issued a response to the nine-main charges against them, dismissing most of the allegations and attempting to justify their actions. They all signed the document as the "9/11 Shura Council". Soon after, the military trial was abandoned.

    As these chaotic bureaucratic and legal bungles further undermined any prospect of a fair trial, KSM took the opportunity to refresh his image. He now sought to portray himself as a martyr to justice. Despite his incarceration in Guantánamo, two new photos of him have appeared, released to his family by the Red Cross. Instead of the image of the scruffy-looking man in white pyjamas taken when he was being arrested, the new images show a smiling man with a great bushy beard, looking more like a guru than a mass murderer. KSM, it seemed, was flourishing.

    The next event was yet another disaster for American justice. In November 2009, following pressure from the new Obama administration, it was announced that all five men would be transferred to a prison in New York to be tried in a civilian court. At last it looked as if justice would prevail. But it was not to be. Despite the efforts of the new president, a majority of members of the US Congress were determined that none of the Guantánamo prisoners should have a civil trial on American soil. In January 2011, in a humiliating act, President Obama was forced to sign the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA), prohibiting the use of government funds to transfer detainees from Guantánamo to the US mainland.

    In April last year, a clearly angry US attorney general, Eric Holder , finally announced that once again, the men were to be tried by a military commission at Guantánamo. Now that trial is about to start. After claims of torture, rendition, confession, aborted military commission and civilian trial, can anyone expect that justice will be served?
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  3. #133
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    Jan 2005
    Guantanamo Prepares For Media Storm At Trial Of KSM, 9/11 Conspirators


    Ryan J. Reilly April 16, 2012, 3:50 PM

    GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA — Pentagon officials preparing for next month’s arraignment of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other accused terrorists charged with plotting the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, are expecting about 600 journalists to apply for the 60 spaces available for members of the media at Guantanamo Bay’s Camp Justice.

    The military has not yet begun accepting credentials requests for the KSM arraignment, which is scheduled to begin on May 5, but one Pentagon public affairs official already received 100 inquires from press.

    Last week’s pre-trial hearings for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the Saudi Arabian man accused of plotting the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, served as a sort of dry run for Guantanamo’s media operation, though the five reporters who attended represented just 1/12th of the 60-person capacity.

    This wouldn’t be the first time that KSM and his alleged co-conspirators were arraigned at Guantanamo Bay. Back in the summer of 2008, KSM appeared in court for an initial hearing alongside Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Walid bin Attash, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi. Later Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the KSM case would be transferred to federal court before reversing his decision last year following intense opposition from the public and members of Congress. The Pentagon announced the May 5 arraignment as reporters headed to Guantanamo for the al-Nashiri trial were on the tarmac last Tuesday morning.

    Having so many reporters at Camp Justice for the KSM trial gives the public affairs staff less flexibility and will likely limit the time reporters get to spend away from their desks at Camp Justice’s tent camp. Officials say they’re limited by the number of vans and personnel available to escort media around the rest of the base, as media can’t leave Camp Justice on their own. It could mean fewer trips to O’Kelly’s, the naval base’s Irish pub frequented by defense lawyers and military prosecutors, and more ordering in from Guantanamo’s Subway sandwich shop. It might make spur-of-the-moment trips to NEX Navy Exchange — the closest thing Guantanamo has to a WalMart — a bit less likely.

    Military officials say they’re doing all they can to prepare. An eight-person public affairs detachment from Washington state arrived at Guantanamo a week before reporters so they had some experience handling media before the KSM trial gets underway. They and another public affairs unit are supplementing Guantanamo’s regular 16-person public affairs staff.

    “We had specifically asked for these guys to arrive before this hearing so that they had some experience before we went into KSM,” Navy Commander Tamsen A. Reese, director of public affairs for Joint Task Force Guantanamo told TPM in an interview at a picnic table in the former airplane hanger that serves as GTMO’s media operations center.

    Reese has been in the position for 18 months (a 12-month deployment is typical) and will soon hand over operations to Navy Captain Robert T. Durand. He held the same position from 2006 to 2007 and had to handle a variety of events that brought harsher scrutiny on Guantanamo Bay including prisoner hunger strikes and suicides. He said he jumped at the chance to return.

    Members of the media who make the trek down to Guantanamo for the KSM trial will also have to figure out who gets one of 10 available seats in courtroom’s small viewing area.

    “We look to the media to decide amongst themselves who’s going in. Our hope is that the media can sort of figure it out on their own,” says Reese. “It’s interesting, because in my experience, media who haven’t been here before will want to go into the courtroom at least one time, but the ability to watch on closed circuit television and be able to have their computer and write their stories or communicate via email with their editors or producers gives the journalists more flexibility than if they are sitting in the courtroom alone. But different folks look at it differently.”

    Janet Hamlin, a courtroom sketch artist who covered the previous KSM court appearance, is hoping for a few changes this time around. Since the view from the small viewing room for the press only allows observers a distant profile view of the defendants, she’s requested to either be placed in the courtroom or have access to all of the video feeds so she can get a good view of all the defendants.

    “I’m not going to hold my breath,” Hamlin told TPM. “The most likely scenario is that I’ll have access to the monitors,” adding that the edited stream only offered “glancing views” of the suspects. But she’s not entirely sure if KSM will get to request modifications to his court sketch this time around (he said his nose was too big in Hamlin’s original drawing).

    “I’m assuming [the lawyers] still have the power to ask me to modify,” Hamlin said.

    Another major change since the last time KSM was arraigned is the addition of a remote location within the U.S. where press can observe the closed circuit feed. The Pentagon expects the ability for the press to watch the feed from Fort Meade in Maryland might accomodate some reporters who would otherwise want to fly to Guantanamo in person. Victims of the attacks and their families will also be able to watch remotely from Fort Meade and from a location in New York.

    “The ability to have the remote sites in Fort Meade and elsewhere is really going to help allow the media to cover it, allow victim family members to watch,” Durand told TPM. “It will enhance the transparency of the operation, but it will take some of the logistics pressure off the people here, but still available to those who want to make the trip.”

    Still, reporters who regularly cover Guantanamo think the increased media interest might be overwhelming.

    “It’s going to be very hard,” Miami Herald reporter Carol Rosenberg told TPM on the flight back from the base.

    “People who usually come to Guantanamo are foreign reporters who have no idea what it’s like, or a small band of reporters who’ve been pretty much — I don’t want to say broken down, what’s the word I’m looking for — pretty much exhausted by the experience,” said Rosenberg, a seasoned Guantanamo Bay reporter.

    “What the 9/11 thing will do is bring a lot of fresh faces and big egos and I don’t know how the military is going to be able to manage it,” Rosenberg said.

    Pentagon officials insist everyone will be treated the same way.

    “I don’t care if you write for Highlights magazine, Cat Fancy or the National Journal. Once you’re approved for travel, everyone gets treated equally,” Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a public affairs officer, told TPM. “There will be no special players.”
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  4. #134
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    Jan 2005
    Reporting from Guantánamo: "Trust Us"

    Posted by Anna Arceneaux, Staff Attorney, Capital Punishment Project at 5:08pm

    This week, I've been in Guantánamo Bay observing a hearing in the first capital case before this latest iteration of military commissions, that of Abd al-Rahim Hussayn Muhammad al-Nashiri. As the hearing has progressed over the last few days, a recurring theme has surfaced: the military commission system will not provide basic legal protections inherent in every other American courtroom. But, the prosecution says, in essence, not to worry: even with these protections swept aside, you can trust us to do the right thing. As I wrote yesterday, the prosecution — and perhaps the judge — does not believe the Constitution applies to Guantánamo prisoners. Chief Prosecutor Brig. Gen. Mark Martins emphasized in a press conference yesterday that the Guantánamo military commissions will be held consistent with our country's values — but apparently just not our constitutional values. In court, Judge James Pohl similarly seems to follow a loose notion of "fundamental fairness" but has so far refused to ground that notion in constitutional law. But trust us.

    Gen. Martins has been giving speeches across the country insisting that the military commission system is fair, transparent, and independent. Saying it is so does not make it true, and what I have observed this week is a system that is far from fair, transparent and independent. And if the proceedings truly embodied such principles, surely such a public relations campaign would hardly be necessary.

    Yesterday's proceedings involved questions about discovery — whether the defense should be allowed to see evidence in the government's possession regarding Mr. al-Nashiri — and the resources that would be provided to his defense team. Under the commissions' rules, once a judge decides the government can withhold classified evidence from the defense, the defense can never ask the judge to reconsider his decision, no matter what comes out as the case progresses. Mr. al-Nashiri's defense lawyers argued that such a scheme was unconstitutional; it is unique to the military commissions because the Classified Information Procedures Act, the law that governs the use of classified information in federal courts, does not contain this prohibition. In fact, the federal judge in the Scooter Libby trial allowed reconsideration of just such a decision. Judge Pohl was unwilling to reject the unfair rules as unconstitutional, but offered an ad-hoc workaround that relies not on rules or procedure, but entirely on his discretion. Under his scheme, the defense will not be allowed to ask the judge to reconsider his ruling. Rather, Judge Pohl will allow the defense to file — at a later date — an amended theory of how it will defend Mr. Al-Nashiri's case and thus make the argument that the previously withheld evidence is necessary to the defense. At that point, the judge could decide on his own whether he should reconsider his prior ruling. Trust us.

    The court then turned to the defense's funding requests. In the military commissions system, defense counsel must seek resources to prepare its defense through the Convening Authority — a political appointee nominated by the Secretary of Defense to be the final word on charges, select a chief judge (Judge Pohl), appoint the chief prosecutor and hand-pick the jury pool. The defense requested resources to have the evidence given to it by the government — or at least portions of it — translated into Arabic for Mr. al-Nashiri, who cannot read English. The Convening Authority denied the request. When the defense asked Judge Pohl to order the translation services yesterday, he also denied it, saying Mr. Al-Nashiri had no right to read the evidence against him. In other words, Mr. al-Nashiri is not entitled to the translation of evidence that the government may use to take his life.

    The defense also sought funds from the Convening Authority for an investigator to travel to Yemen — where the bombing of the USS Cole took place. The Convening Authority denied that request too. The defense took it up with the judge. Though none of the defense lawyers speak Arabic or are able to travel freely to Yemen, the prosecution also opposed the funding for the investigator and even questioned the qualifications of the investigator the defense has chosen. Given that the government has been investigating the alleged offense and Mr. al-Nashiri for over 11 years, with multiple agencies and the military at its disposal, its opposition to funding for the defense to send a temporary investigator to Yemen was outrageous.

    As a capital defense attorney with the ACLU's Capital Punishment Project, regularly representing indigent defendants facing the death penalty in courts across the country, I know that such opposition would never be permitted in federal or state courts. The United States Supreme Court recognized long ago that an indigent defendant has a constitutional right to seek resources for his defense before the judge alone, without the prosecution weighing in. To have it otherwise would reveal defense strategy and give the prosecution an unfair advantage. The government, of course, never has to ask permission from the judge when it needs resources — and the defense would never have an opportunity to question the government's investigative decisions. Nor is the government restricted in the resources at its disposal. As Gen. Martins admitted yesterday at a press conference following the hearing, even in tough fiscal times, the budget for Guantánamo prosecutors is virtually unlimited. And there is little doubt that the U.S. government spent whatever it needed to spend to investigate the bombing of the USS Cole.

    Fortunately, despite the government's opposition, the judge agreed that such an investigator was necessary. However, under military commissions' rules, the Convening Authority, who actually cuts the checks, is not bound by the judge's ruling. So, it is still far from clear whether the defense will actually get to hire the investigator. But, trust us.

    This has been my first trip to Guantánamo, but in talking to other legal observers, members of the press, and Office of Military Commission personnel, many changes are underway here, as the base prepares for commission proceedings to come — not only in Mr. al-Nashiri's case but in the case against the alleged 9/11 perpetrators. Over 100 people connected to the Guantánamo commissions flew down with us early this week for Mr. al-Nashiri's proceeding alone. In anticipation of the 9/11 proceedings, the base is making efforts to make its visitors more "comfortable." But let's be clear: from a legal and fairness perspective, there is nothing comfortable about the military commission system at Guantánamo.

    We should place our trust in an independent, open, and fair system, grounded in the Constitution — like our federal courts. Trusting political — or simply fallible human — players to "do the right thing" is an experiment that history has repeatedly rejected.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  5. #135
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    Jan 2005
    No real justice in Guantanamo
    Trying accused terrorists before military commissions won't meet international standards.,2098341.story

    By Reed Brody
    April 19, 2012

    Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, wearing white prison clothes, seemed by turns amused and bewildered as he sat in a bright room last week during a pretrial hearing at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    Nashiri is charged with being a key organizer of Al Qaeda's attack on the U.S. destroyer Cole on Oct. 12, 2000, off the coast of Yemen, which killed 17 U.S. servicemen, as well as of two other attacks. He faces the death penalty if convicted in a trial before a military commission that is scheduled to begin in November.

    The Nashiri case is seen as a dry run for the trial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four other alleged planners of the Sept. 11 attacks, who will be arraigned in Guantanamo on May 5. But it is also important in its own right. He is accused of dreadful crimes, but even if he is found guilty, his execution would be a deeply disturbing end to a long ordeal of abuse in an archipelago of secret U.S. prisons around the world.

    Nashiri was captured in Dubai in October 2002 and secretly transferred to CIA custody. He was reportedly first taken to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan known as the "Salt Pit," then to another secret jail in Bangkok, Thailand.

    A report by the CIA's inspector general details a range of abuses to which Nashiri was subjected, including waterboarding. He was sent on to Poland, where he was, according to the report, threatened with a power drill revved near his head while he was hooded but otherwise naked. His captors also cocked a semiautomatic handgun close to his head as he sat shackled, held him in "standing stress positions" and threatened to sexually abuse his mother in front of him.

    In 2003, he was flown out of Poland, presumably to other secret CIA jails. It was not until September 2006 that the United States government acknowledged his secret detention and that he was at that time being held in Guantanamo.

    Last week's hearing, which I attended, dealt with, among other things, Nashiri's request that his feet be unshackled during meetings with his attorneys. A select number of observers from nongovernmental organizations were permitted to watch from behind a soundproof glass wall at the back of the courtroom. A video and audio feed was piped in on a 40-second delay — enough time to censor any classified information that came up.

    Nashiri's lawyers had argued that he was so traumatized by years of being shackled in CIA prisons that having to be shackled now, when he meets his lawyers, brings back the trauma and impairs his ability to help them prepare for his trial. The lawyers wanted Nashiri to take the stand to talk about those experiences, but because that information was classified, the judge was expected to close the hearing. Ten news organizations, including the Miami Herald and the New York Times, filed a petition to keep the hearings open, and their lawyer was allowed to address the commission, setting an important precedent regarding the public's interest in open proceedings.

    In the end, the judge rendered the issue moot by approving Nashiri's motion to meet with his lawyers unshackled, without calling him to the stand. The chief prosecutor later made it clear that he would not agree in the future to Nashiri's open-court testimony about his detention. So, though we know some details of Nashiri's treatment, we may never know exactly what was done to him. The CIA actually recorded some of Nashiri's waterboarding, but in 2005 it destroyed the tapes and those involving many other detainees, allegedly for national security reasons.

    Nashiri's trial before the Guantanamo military commission raises problems that go far beyond the fact that he was tortured. Despite changes made to the commissions since President Obama was elected, they do not meet international fair trial standards. The Defense Department, for instance, handpicks the military judges and juror pool. And there is a massive inequality between the prosecution and the defense in terms of resources.

    The rules permit the prosecution to present summaries of classified information, meaning that the accused and his lawyers see only summaries, not the underlying reports, transcripts and other information on which they are based. While similar protection of classified information is available in U.S. civilian courts, the commission rules also allow the introduction of hearsay. These two rules combined allow prosecutors (even unintentionally) to launder evidence obtained from other detainees by torture because they need only present a written summary of the interrogation, not offer the detainee or the interrogator in person, as a witness, or even disclose their identities.

    At the end of last week's hearings, several family members of U.S. servicemen and women killed on the Cole spoke movingly at a news briefing about their quest for justice. They deserve a verdict free from doubt, just as the U.S. needs a trial that is accepted around the world as a fair search for the truth. On both counts, the Guantanamo commissions are likely to fall short.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  6. #136
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    Jan 2005
    Guantanamo detainee contests court's secrecy rule

    (AFP) – 9 hours ago

    WASHINGTON — An accused September 11 conspirator filed a motion challenging a rule that keeps statements by the Guantanamo detainees secret, his lawyer said.

    Attorney James Connell called for end to "the presumption of classification" that applies to everything the Guantanamo detainees say.

    His client, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, is scheduled to be arraigned May 5 at Guantanamo along with four other accused terrorists.

    All statements made by the detainees are reviewed by US military judges for national security implications before they are released publicly.

    Asked whether his client would plead guilty or not guilty during his arraignment, Connell said he could not answer because everything his client says is "presumed classified."

    "Some of the things that the prisoners say are classified, other parts are actually unclassified but even the parts that are unclassified, we are required to treat as if they are classified," Connell told AFP.

    The motion Connell filed on behalf of Ali "tries to open up the situation so things that have nothing to do with national security could be discussed," he said.

    "Presumptive classification contradicts both our democracy's need for transparency and its rules for protecting national security. It only serves to hide the truth about the torture these men experienced," Connell said in a statement.

    "Under federal law, only information relating to nuclear weapons is presumed to be classified; all other information must be reviewed by a government official... before it can be classified," he said.

    The motion, which is scheduled to be discussed at the May 5 hearing, is "part of an overall push to make the military commissions open up a little bit so people can find out what's really going on," Connell told AFP.

    Connell's court filing follows a request at a Guantanamo hearing last week by a lawyer acting on behalf of the US media that an accused terrorist's testimony about torture he suffered be made public.

    Ali, a Pakistani, is scheduled to be arraigned alongside four other co-defendants.

    The five are accused of planning and executing the September 11, 2001 attacks against New York and Washington, as well as the downing of a hijacked airplane in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, which killed a total of 2,976 people.

    One of the co-defendants scheduled to be arraigned at the May 5 hearing is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the September 11 attacks.

    The charges against the defendants carry a possible death penalty.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  7. #137
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    Jan 2005
    Defense Counsel File Motions Closed-Door Military Commission Proceedings

    By Raffaela Wakeman
    Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 3:03 PM

    Defense counsel for the five alleged 9/11 co-conspirators have filed several motions challenging the closed-door nature of some military commission proceedings.

    Although the filings haven’t been released (they need to be reviewed and redacted first), the defense attorneys released two statements regarding them.

    The first, dated Friday, April 19th, says:
    Today defense attorneys for alleged 9/11 logistical co-conspirator Ali Abdul Aziz Ali filed a motion challenging a key secrecy rule at the military commissions. “Guantanamo Bay applies a rule that everything its prisoners say is ‘presumpively classified,’” said James G. Connell, a DoD civilian representing Ali. “Presumptive classification contradicts both our democracy’s need for transparency and its rules for protecting national security. It only serves to hide the truth about the torture these men experienced.” The motion is scheduled to be heard at the arraignment on May 5.

    The motion argues that presumptive classification violates President Obama’s 2009 Executive Order governing classification, which includes a presumption that information should not be classified unless it meets strict criteria relating to national security. Under federal law, only information relating to nuclear weapons—called “Restricted Data”—is presumed to be classified; all other information must be reviewed by a government official called an “original classification authority” before it can be classified.

    The motion will not be available to the public until the military commission has reviewed it and made any redactions it feels necessary.
    The second, released yesterday, April 24th, says:
    Attorneys for the accused 9/11 conspirators have challenged the military commissions practice of conducting closed-door hearings on legal issues. “These men have suffered the worst excesses of secrecy,” said James Connell, attorney for alleged logistical supporter Ali Abdul Aziz Ali. “This trial needs to be conducted in the open, where victims of the 9/11 attacks, the media, and the world can see what is happening.”

    A set of motions filed today and Friday challenge so-called “802 conferences” in which the military officer presiding over the military commission discusses issues with attorneys outside the presence of observers. Although the May 5 arraignment will be the first time the 9/11 defendants have appeared in a military commission since 2009, observers of the USS Cole case have noted that the military commission seems to address a number of issues behind closed doors. Colonel James F. Pohl, the military officer presiding over the USS Cole case, has also detailed himself to the 9/11 case.

    Cheryl Bormann, attorney for Walid bin ‘Attash, contrasted the practice of 802 conferences with the rhetoric of “transparency” from military prosecutors. “The government is opposed to giving the press and public access to what happens behind closed doors. When the Chief Prosecutor claims the new and improved military commissions are transparent, he must not define transparent the same way we do – meaning, the public gets to see the process. We are disappointed that in a case with this much at stake, the prosecution does not mean what it says. We expect more from a fair system of justice than a series of public relations appearances and talking points from the prosecution.”

    This motion is the latest in a series of challenges to secrecy in the military commissions. Earlier this month, a media coalition challenged a proposed closed hearing about torture in the USS Cole case, but Colonel Pohl’s ruling avoided the issue. Last week, attorneys for Ali Abdul Aziz Ali filed a motion contesting “presumptive classification” at the military commissions, which requires that all statements of Guantanamo prisoners on any topic be treated as classified. Colonel Pohl is expected to address the two most recent motions at the May 5 arraignment.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  8. #138
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    Jan 2005
    How to Try Terrorists



    Adis Medunjanin is shown in this courtroom sketch on day one of his trial in Brooklyn federal court in New York, April 16, 2012.Jane Rosenberg/ReutersAdis Medunjanin is shown in this courtroom sketch on day one of his trial in Brooklyn federal court in New York, April 16, 2012.

    Next month, more than nine years after he was captured, then thrown into a secret prison, tortured, and finally moved to Guantanamo Bay, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed will finally go on trial under the military commission system.

    No matter how hard the judges and prosecutors try to make this trial legitimate, and I’m sure they will, I doubt the world will ever see it that way. The trial should be taking place in New York City, as Attorney General Eric Holder proposed. But Congress, in its politicized version of wisdom, refused to let that happen; they passed a law forbidding a federal court trial for any Guantanamo inmate, insisting that military tribunals are tougher, and that it’s simply too dangerous to try terrorists in New York City.

    The problem with Congress’s argument is that it’s entirely unsubstantiated. There is no evidence suggesting that civilian courts can’t handle terrorist trials. On the contrary, there’s ample and mounting evidence proving that they can.

    Last month, Mr. Holder pointed out that “since 9/11 hundreds of individuals have been convicted of terrorism or terrorism-related offenses in Article 3 courts and are now serving long sentences in federal prison. Not one has ever escaped custody. No judicial district has suffered any kind of retaliatory attack.”

    In fact, as National Public Radio reported yesterday, there is a terrorism trial going on right now—in Brooklyn, of all places. One of the three men charged with plotting to blow up the subway system in 2009 is facing life in prison without the possibility of parole. (The other two pleaded guilty already.) Amazingly enough, there is no hue and cry.

    There is no good reason to believe that the criminal justice system can handle an alleged terrorist who plotted to destroy the subway, but not an alleged terrorist who plotted to destroy the World Trade System. No good reason. The obvious bad reason is politics. Opposing the Mohammed trial was a publicity bonanza for tough-on-terrorism Republicans and a bipartisan group of cowardly members of the New York Congressional delegation.

    The secondary bad reason is torture. If the Mohammed trial had taken place in federal court, details about his treatment might have become public, embarrassing lawmakers who either supported or turned a blind eye to prisoner abuse under President George W. Bush, and shaming President Obama, who has done nothing to bring his predecessor to account.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  9. #139
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    9/11 judge has handled tough cases before
    The judge presiding over the trial of the five men accused of orchestrating the 9/11 attacks is a no-nonsense jurist who takes on the toughest cases himself.


    When President George W. Bush proposed razing Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison in 2004, this American Army judge declared it a crime scene and forbade its demolition. When five years later President Barack Obama asked the Guantánamo war court to freeze all proceedings, the same judge refused the brand-new commander-in-chief’s request.

    He’s Col. James L. Pohl, who has appointed himself to preside at the war crimes trial of the five men accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11 attacks.

    It’s not that Pohl is unaware of rank after three decades in the Army. It’s simply not relevant in this colonel’s court.

    Here’s how he scolded a prosecutor when the prison commander, an admiral, was late for court to testify after lunch recess in January: “Witnesses should be waiting either in the trailer at the back or outside,” the judge bristled, “and I really don’t care what their rank is.”

    A soldier since the ’80s and a judge since 2000, Pohl has had judicial oversight of some of the most notorious Army cases of the post-Sept. 11 era.
    • He presided at the trials of nine soldiers found guilty of abusing detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
    • He decided that U.S. Army psychiatrist Maj. Nidal Hassan should get a death-penalty trial for the 2009 shooting spree that killed 13 soldiers and wounded dozens more at Fort Hood, Texas.
    • In September, however, he found the opposite at a show-cause hearing for Army Sgt. John Russell. Unlike Hassan, Pohl ruled, Russell had “an undisputed mental disease or defect” that made it “inappropriate” to pursue a capital case for allegedly killing five troops at the combat stress center at Iraq’s Camp Liberty in May 2009.
    • Pohl also presided at the so-called “mercy killing” trial of an Army captain, a tank commander, who killed a critically wounded insurgent in May 2004, and was captured on an aerial drone’s videocam doing it.
    Now, at a moment when most 60-year-old colonels are retiring from service, Pohl is chief military commissions judge, and has chosen to take on two of the most high-profile trials of his career: the 9/11 trial, and the trial of a man who allegedly engineered al Qaida’s 2000 USS Cole bombing.

    Each case seeks the death penalty. Each is to be heard by a military commission, the tribunals that Bush had created after Sept. 11 and Obama ordered reformed upon taking office.

    Saturday, Pohl will face off for the first time with Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who bragged that he masterminded 9/11 for al Qaida — wading into the case that’s been a lightning rod for criticism that the court was created to cover up torture.

    Serious about the law, but not himself
    “All judges should be like him,” says Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steve David, a retired Army colonel.

    Pohl “takes what he does very seriously but not himself. He is fair and firm with a great sense of humor and a keen mind. If I were prosecuting or defending, he would be a great choice for judge.”

    He’s by far the most experienced military judge currently in the Army, adds retired Marine Lt. Col. Guy Womack, a veteran military defender of Pohl courts martial from the Green Zone in Iraq, Germany and the United States, notably the Abu Ghraib case.

    There, Pohl caused a mini-stir by refusing a guilty plea by Pfc. Lynndie England, the soldier photographed with a detainee on a leash. At her hearing, another soldier testified that England was ordered to pose for that picture, casting doubt on her admission of conspiracy. Pohl ordered a trial. She was found guilty.

    Womack also described Pohl as one of the military’s most methodical and careful crafters of judicial rulings to make sure they stand up to appellate scrutiny, a skill set he likely acquired in the early 1990s while working at the government appellate division in Falls Church, Va., defending Army convictions.

    When he got the Abu Ghraib case, said Womack, Pohl kept “all of them, which is typical” — a practice Pohl has repeated at Guantánamo by handling all the trials of the former CIA captives.

    Womack called Pohl’s judicial style “dictatorial,” and said the judge preferred to meet defense and prosecution attorneys in chambers, out of earshot of the public and off the record, before each day to map out how the session would proceed.

    Of the 9/11 trial, said Womack, “Col. Pohl would be the judge of choice for this case either because he doesn’t want to be reversed, or because he wants to mean well. You need a strong judge; a weak judge would never get it done.”

    At the same time, he has shunned the spotlight.

    Pohl wouldn’t be interviewed for this profile.

    He travels incognito, in jeans and polo shirt, no colonel’s uniform for him. And he has stood in line to check in for the war court charter flight from Andrews Air Force Base undetected by reporters, legal observers, enlisted troops, even some lawyers going to Guantánamo, too.

    An ex-Army prosecutor calls him “ego-less.” David calls him “humble,” and, oddly for a man so private, “someone that could do those commercials for Dove soap for men. He is very comfortable in his skin!”

    Omitted from Pohl’s terse court biography is that he was sworn in as a judge on May 19, 2000, after completing the Army’s “Military Judge Course” with perfect scores on his final exams and graded practical exercises. That makes him the longest serving judge currently in the U.S. military. His biography also does not mention that he’s been retained past his retirement date, Oct. 1, 2010, and serves in a special status that requires renewal each year.

    At Guantánamo, it’s hard to spot him around the base, where he mostly splits his time between the court and his quarters. On a sticky evening in April, military lawyers donned crisp uniforms and civilians put on suits and ties to climb a hill to the old tribunal building and meet the judge in his chambers.

    They found Pohl in jeans and loafers, no socks, and a pink sports shirt.

    By gavel-down the next morning, he was in his Class Bs, the new Army uniform with a gold stripe down the trousers, topped by a black robe — commissions business attire.

    Sometimes, you can see him at dinner in a corner booth at O’Kelly’s pub. But, unlike the lawyers and reporters, who mingle and make small talk, he keeps the company of his staff, and he doesn’t linger at the bar.

    Judicial independence
    Judge Pohl comes to the 9/11 case from the peculiar position of having been passed over for promotion to general and retained past retirement, meaning “he’s got nobody he has to please,” says retired Lt. Col. Victor M. Hansen, who spent 20 years as an Army lawyer and now teaches at New England Law School.

    Hansen says Pohl has the judicial independence to throw out a case for insufficient evidence, no matter how high profile. “He would not bat an eye, and sleep like a baby that night.”

    Guantánamo’s death penalty cases present Pohl with grave issues in a still-evolving system.

    CIA torture is alleged — some of the accused were waterboarded, threatened at gunpoint, sleep deprived, hung by their wrists, had their families threatened. A jury of U.S. military officers decides guilt or innocence, life or death. It’s Pohl’s job to decide what charges go to the jury and to make sure no evidence derived from abuse or worse is used at trial.

    Pohl has yet to tip his hand on what he’ll do if he’s confronted with proof that U.S. agents tortured a captive. By international law, it’s a war crime.

    He has told defense lawyers it’ll be their job to instruct him on how to regard the treatment, what rules apply, and it’ll be his job “to follow the law and the preferences given to me by counsel and as I interpret it.”

    Hansen predicts that Pohl “will take the prosecution through the wringer” to make sure no “derivative evidence from coerced confessions comes in.”

    Earlier in their careers, Hansen was an Army prosecutor who worked opposite Pohl, who was taking a turn as defense attorney, typical of the Army legal career track. Hansen predicts the judge will be “tough on both sides” at the 9/11 trial.

    “He’s lived as a defense counsel in the Army, when you’ve got the whole prosecution against you. And so he’s very good on keeping the government’s feet to the fire.”

    Lawyers who’ve watched Pohl for years say he sweats the details, and demands the same of those who come to his court.

    Privacy, wry wit
    Pohl’s an intensely private man.

    Friends likewise declined to answer the most innocuous human interest questions. Not even what he does when Army plays Navy, a football rivalry that’s a rite.

    Public records show that James Lancaster Pohl earns $10,557 a month plus a housing allowance. He turns 61 next month.

    He has served a stint in Korea, at least five years in Germany and is now based at Fort Benning in Georgia, where he registered as a voter in September 2008.

    He’s voted once since — on Nov. 4, 2008, the historic elections that put the first African American in the White House.

    He’s a 1974 graduate of UCLA, where records show he got a bachelor of science degree in psychology. He went up the road to Malibu’s Pepperdine University to get his law degree in 1978, and was admitted to the California Bar after Thanksgiving that year.

    Several friends mentioned his hilarious sense of humor, which you only glimpse at court.

    Once, a defense attorney invoked the estimate that it costs $800,000 a year per Guantánamo detainee and called it “a monument to waste.”

    Pohl retorted: “Let’s say it is robustly resourced.”

    When a Saudi in his court pulled out a poster showing Obama’s pledge to close Guantánamo, the judge dryly asked the man’s attorney whether this should be marked as evidence.

    “For as many big cases as he’s had, that he’s tried, the man really is ego-less,” said former Army Maj. Christopher Graveline, who prosecuted the Abu Ghraib case and left the military in 2006. “It’s never about him, it’s about doing the process and trying to reach a fair result.”

    So when Pohl was holding hearings in Baghdad and President Bush remarked back home that the prison should be demolished, the judge ruled for defense attorneys that the place needed protection.

    “He gave a restraining order to the president and didn’t bat an eyelash,” said Graveline, who called it unprecedented and seemed genuinely dumbfounded by the order even now. “It wasn’t like a chest thumping thing for him. He said, ‘This is a crime scene and we’re going to allow them to take a look at it.’ ”

    In the same hearing Pohl ordered numerous officers in the military chain of command, notably the Central Command’s chief, Army Gen. John Abizaid, to undergo questioning by defense lawyers trying to make the case that the guards were following policy by posing detainees for humiliating photos. (They weren’t and all the soldiers were convicted.)

    “I was shocked,” Graveline said. “I was a captain at the time. I had to go back and tell my boss!”

    The judge drew the line, however, when lawyers asked to question Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Stephen Carbone, his undersecretary for intelligence.

    Pohl ruled the defense had not drawn a clear enough line to the political hierarchy to merit a subpoena. But, he told them, if they could make a better case for it later, he’d reconsider the request — not unlike what he’s been telling defense lawyers in the USS Cole case when their motions fail.

    It was his handling of the Cole case that confounded the freshly minted Obama administration.

    Just hours in office, Obama sent word to the Pentagon that he was suspending the trials at Guantánamo to review all the cases.

    Obama had campaigned on a promise to close the prison in Cuba, and prosecutors filed motions to delay the arraignment of Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, who’d been waterboarded by the CIA.

    Bush-era lawyers approved death-penalty charges in the dwindling days of the administration, and served Nashiri on Christmas Eve. A statutory 30-day speedy trial clock was ticking.

    And Pohl ruled against the new president.

    “The Commission is bound by the law as it currently exists not as it may change in the future,” he wrote. A continuance, he added, would “not serve the interests of justice.”

    The Pentagon had an out: It could withdraw the charges, without prejudice, and preserve the option to try Nashiri later. A Defense official ultimately did that. But not before a mini-maelstrom questioned Pohl’s motives.

    Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, blamed Bush administration holdouts for “exploiting ambiguities in President Obama’s executive order as a strategy to undercut the president’s unequivocal promise to shut down Guantánamo.” Former USS Cole commander Kirk S. Lippold countered that the judge had delivered “a victory for the 17 families of the sailors who lost their lives on the USS Cole over eight years ago.”

    An online bulletin board for the military law community posted the development with the headline, “Army Judge Pohl Sticks it to Obama Administration”

    Lawyers who had worked with the judge weighed in, and disagreed.

    Pohl had applied the law, as written, to the government motion and could not find a reason to grant it. “On its face, the request to delay the arraignment is not reasonable,” he had ruled.

    Classic Pohl, it reflects the judge’s penchant for noting the political and then arguing it’s irrelevant.

    At a hearing weeks after Obama was elected, but before he took office, Pohl announced the obvious:

    “This court is aware that on Jan. 20 there will be a new commander-in-chief, which may or may not impact on these proceedings.” Meantime, he advised, everyone should stay focused “unless and until a competent authority tells us not to.”

    Guantánamo has a court like no other. It gets turned off and on by a charter flight carrying staff, and follows its own rulebook, not the Uniform Code of Military Justice used to try American soldiers. In between court sessions, Pohl issues instructions by email. He’s announced that he’ll accompany Nashiri prosecutors and defense lawyers to Yemen this summer, as deposition officer overseeing sworn testimony from Yemenis who can’t be subpoenaed to the war court in Cuba.

    “Location does not matter to Judge Pohl,” said Graveline. “I know he’s gone to Afghanistan, he’s gone to Iraq — in that sense, he’s very Army.” He’s held court at a forward operating base in Baghdad’s Sadr City, the mostly Shiite slum that often simmered with anti-American unrest.

    Once, during an Abu Ghraib hearing, the courtroom building shook with the thud of insurgent mortars striking inside Camp Victory in Baghdad. Pohl told everyone “to stop in place” for a few moments; the attack over, he ordered court to resume.

    For next week’s hearing, the Pentagon is bringing up to 60 reporters.

    Pohl’s made clear from the bench that he’s a proponent of transparency but will close the court if the rules require it.

    “I don’t think he worries about the media scrutiny or the military scrutiny,” said Hansen. “But he doesn’t want to make a bad ruling or a rash ruling.”

    Plus, said Hansen. “He’s certainly not afraid to ruffle feathers, to call it like he sees it and not necessarily worry about the long-term consequences.”

    At the end of the day, those who know him say, Pohl will play the role of referee at Guantánamo through the prism of three decades of service to the Army that honors judicial independence guided by what the rules created by Congress and the White House require.

    Says Graveline, the Abu Ghraib prosecutor: “Judge Pohl knows what the law is — that’s military law and U.S. law — and he follows the law. There’s always evolving areas of law, but we try to analogize it to bedrock principles of justice, and it always goes back to, is this a fair process?”

    Defense attorney Womack, who argued opposite Graveline, says that Pohl is capable of delivering that kind of justice. “He knows the law. He has a strong personality. And you can’t have referees that vacillate.”
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

  10. #140
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Military to show Guantánamo proceedings at 4 U.S. bases
    First responders will get their own New York City screening room to watch the 9/11 trial at Guantanamo. The general public can only go to one site, at Fort Meade, Md., to see a closed-circuit broadcast of the accused 9/11 plotters charged with war crimes


    Firefighters and cops who raced to the burning trade World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001 will watch in one room at a Brooklyn Army post while 9/11 victims will watch from another. Media, family members and members of the public can watch on three separate screens at Fort Meade in Maryland.

    For next week’s unusual Saturday military commissions arraignment at Guantánamo of five men accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11 attacks, the Pentagon has put four U.S. military bases into service — all on the East Coast.

    Friday, the Pentagon published an order by Army Col. James L. Pohl, the chief of the Guantánamo war court, to open viewing sites for the May 5 arraignment “due to the serious nature of the crimes alleged and the historic nature of military commissions.”

    In it, Pohl authorized a total of eight viewing sites set up for different categories of spectators authorized to watch via closed-circuit TV feed when Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four alleged 9/11 accomplices are brought into the Guantánamo court.

    All five are accused of organizing, training and funneling funds to the hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Center, Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001, and could face the death penalty if convicted at trial.

    Two of the sites won’t be ready in time, so the viewings break down this way:

    • Properly credentialed family members who lost relatives in the 9/11 attacks can watch at Fort Devens in Massachusetts, Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst in New Jersey and Fort Meade in Maryland. Those with credentials signed up through website notices to 9/11 families and have already been vetted. (Five 9/11 family members will to travel to Guantánamo, each with a companion, to watch from a spectator gallery. The Defense Department choose them by lottery, though they have not been publicly identified.)

    • Reporters who signed up with the Pentagon Office of Public Affairs can watch at Fort Meade, the site closest to the Pentagon, on a separate screen than the one provided for victims. The judge approved a second media viewing site at an unspecified “Executive Branch Federal Building” in Washington, D.C. But a government official said Friday that the Washington site has not been set up. (The Pentagon also is providing seats in the courtroom at Guantánamo and a closed-circuit feed to 60 reporters and support staff at Guantánamo’s court compound, Camp Justice.)

    • First responders get their own screen. New York police, firefighters and other emergency workers who raced to the burning World Trade Center on 9/11, but didn’t lose relatives, don’t meet the Pentagon’s definition of victim family members. So Pohl approved the establishment of a separate screening site in Manhattan.

    It’s still being set up, said Fort Hamilton’s spokeswoman, Alison Kohler. In the meantime, they’ll get a separate screen at Fort Hamilton, in a “multi-purpose-room” that can seat 460 people and accommodate 150 more in overflow space. Victim families will get the base auditorium that seats 500.

    Fort Hamilton is an active military base, Kohler noted, adding that all visitors and their vehicles will be searched. It’s also home to a special anti-terror unit, called a Civil Support Team.

    Some of the Pentagon-paid lawyers who’ve been assigned to defend the five men are arguing for even greater transparency of the actual trial.

    “We want it on C-SPAN,” defense attorney James Connell III said from Guantánamo, where he’s filing motions on behalf of Mohammed’s nephew, who is accused as a conspirator in the attacks for wiring money to some of the 9/11 hijackers.

    Wider viewership, Connell argued, might gain more understanding of the diverse roles that the five accused allegedly played in the attacks. In the case of Connell’s client, who’s known as Ammar al Baluchi, “I think if people understand more about him, they’d be less likely to say ‘Hey this low-level guy deserves the death penalty.’ ”

    Attorney General Eric Holder had first decided to hold the 9/11 trial in Manhattan, with a civilian jury hearing the case at the U.S. District Court. Congress blocked that plan through legislation. Holder ultimately authorized the Defense Department to hold the trial by military commission, a jury of U.S. military officers.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG

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