Trial of the Century Still Shrouded in Secrecy at Guantanamo

A sketch by a courtroom artist shows self-proclaimed terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, right, as he reviews court documents with his lawyers during the pre-trial hearing at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, Feb. 12, 2013.From the Kafkaesque world that is the military commission proceedings being held at the Guantanamo Naval base in Cuba comes this headline: “Guantánamo judge makes secret ruling on secret motion in secret hearing.”

At issue? Well, it’s clearly difficult to tell, but as Miami Herald reporter Carol Rosenberg attempts to describe to readers, the issue surrounds some kind of evidence that may or may not be vital to the prosecution’s case against accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed who is now facing trial for the crime that took place twelve years ago today.

‘If you want to know what is wrong with the military commissions, read this transcript.’

In events that led to a clearing of the courtroom and silencing of all recording devices associated with the trial, the prosecution appeared to be objecting to discovery of certain details pertaining to Mohammed’s treatment or whereabouts while he was held in CIA custody after his capture but before he was brought to the island prison.

As Rosenberg reports:

At issue in the hearing was a pretrial motion labeled AE52 by the prosecution that sought a secret ruling from the judge. It was called a “government consolidated notice regarding ex parte, in camera filing and motion for finding” on the Pentagon’s war court website whose motto is “fairness, transparency, justice.”

A government protective order in the case blocks from public view the details of the CIA’s secret prison network where the five alleged plotters were held for years and, they and their lawyers say, were tortured. A censor inside the court can cut off the audio to the public if he or the judge fear national security secrets will be spilled.

But the judge ruled that the risk was so great he closed the Aug. 19 hearing entirely. Tuesday, the Pentagon released the partial transcript after U.S. intelligence agencies redacted secret information from it.

The transcript was so heavily redacted, in fact, that it was impossible to determine what prosecution was discussing, why the judge reacted so strongly, or why the request was ultimately rejected.

As Human Rights Watch counterterrorism counsel Andrea Prasow told Rosenberg, what is most troubling is not even the level of secrecy, but the government’s continued attempts to bar the defense from accessing key information which impacts their ability to adequately represent their clients.

“The over-classification is of course troubling,” said Prasow. “But what I find more concerning is that the government believed all along that the defense had no right to the information.

“The defendants are on trial for their lives, and while they sit in their cells, forbidden from entering the courtroom, the prosecution tries to hide evidence from their lawyers. If you want to know what is wrong with the military commissions, read this transcript.”


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