9/11 pre-trial hearings resume amid censorship controversy
FORT MEADE, Md. — The five men accused of plotting the September 11, 2001 attacks were expected to appear in court Monday at the start of a series of pretrial hearings in a military commission courtroom at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The judge hearing the case, Army Colonel James Pohl, ordered the men to attend Monday's hearing because the gravity of the motions to be considered. The defendants have not attended most of the recent hearings, opting instead to remain in their cells at the highly secured base.
The defendants include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the attacks, who has been in captivity since 2003. Mohammed and the other four — Walid bin Attash, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Mustafa al-Hawsawi and Ramzi Binalshibh — face the death penalty if convicted.
The charges against them include conspiracy, attacking civilians, murder in violation of the law of war, hijacking and terrorism.
The government says they helped train and finance the 19 men who hijacked the four planes that were crashed into symbolic centres of American power — the World Trade Center and the Pentagon — killing nearly 3,000 people.
The military is broadcasting the proceedings over closed-circuit television to Fort Meade, Maryland, outside Washington, DC, where journalists can view them on a 40-second time delay.
The delay gives the government time to cut off the feed should any secret information be revealed in court.
The delay became an issue on January 28 when the broadcast was mysteriously suspended without Pohl or a security officer in the courtroom cutting it off.
At the last pretrial hearing on January 31, Pohl ordered the US government to disable technology that allowed third-party observers to censor the broadcast of the proceedings, saying the commission does not permit any entity outside the court to suspend the broadcast of the proceeding.
Lead defence attorney David Nevin filed a motion seeking a suspension of the proceedings until the defence knew more about who controlled the broadcast stream. The motion seeks to find out whether an outside party had been eavesdropping.
Pohl said after reviewing the reasons for the suspension, the evidence being presented at the time should not have been withheld from the broadcast. He said no original classification authority (OCA) or any other third party would be allowed ever again to decide whether the broadcast should be suspended.
The OCA are believed to be groups involved in the detention and prosecution of the defendants, including the CIA.
Prior to the suspension there had been no sign that anyone other than Pohl could turn off the broadcast.