UPDATED: Military judge demands government cease any third party censorship of court broadcast feeds
Updated, Jan. 31: The military judge handling the trial of the 9/11 suspects ordered the government on Thursday to disable the ability of any outside party to censor the audio and visual feed of the court proceedings. Col. James Pohl said Monday’s incident would be “the last time” that an outside party “will be able to unilaterally suspend the broadcast.”
Original post: It came as a surprise, even to the judge. According to reports, during Monday’s pretrial hearing for the Guantánamo detainees accused of the 9/11 attacks, audio and video feed from the courtroom to a press gallery cut out, and a red light in the court went off, indicating the “censor” button had been pressed. But neither the judge nor the appointed censor had pressed the button. On Tuesday, following lengthy closed-door meetings, Judge Col. James Pohl said that the feeds should not have been shut off at that time, but refused to disclose who had been responsible.
The Miami Herald reported from the hearing at the Guantánamo military base:
Spectators in the war court gallery watch from behind soundproofed glass and hear the court on a 40-second delay. A red emergency light spins in court when a censor at the judge’s elbow hits the mute button to prevent someone from spilling national security secrets. Conversation continues, but the public can’t hear it.
On Monday, neither the judge, nor the censor — called a court security officer— had done it.
According to the Washington Post, the only other authority reviewing and classifying the feeds in real time is “almost certainly” the CIA. “But it remains unclear whether agency personnel have a previously undisclosed ability to cut the feed,” the Post noted. When a defense attorney asked the judge Tuesday about who had the power to cut the feed, Pohl said that they were touching on issues that should not be discussed in open court. The defense attorney’s concern, however, was an important one: Are unknown officials listening in to confidential information passed from his clients at the counsel table too?
As the New Yorker blog noted, “assertions about the surveillance of the defendants and the confidentiality of attorney-client conversations have not been reconciled” — yet another glaring flaw in the almost ad hoc war court proceedings:
This is Guantánamo, where following the proceedings can be a bit like watching over someone’s shoulders when they play SimCity and forget an essential utility, causing the whole grid to crumple. The military-tribunal system has undergone a few revisions since the early Bush years, mostly thanks to the Supreme Court, but the government is still pretty much making it up as it goes along, in a way that is painful to watch. Hilarity would ensue were this not a solemn session in which we are supposed to be impressing the world with our ability to bring mass murderers to justice while maintaining not only the rule of law but also a shred of dignity.
Meanwhile, this week’s hearings threw up another interesting issue when attorneys representing Khalid Sheik Mohammed and the other accused men requested to spend two nights each month in the Guantánamo cells with their clients. According to reports, KSM’s lawyer David Nevin said he wants to visit Camp 7, where the suspects have been held, in order to understand his client’s “behavior and his actions in open court, and also his reaction to his current conditions of confinement.” Nevin said it was necessary “particularly in the context of a person who was tortured.” The lawyers argued that the personal histories and psychology of their clients could be relevant in any sentencing phase of the death penalty case.
As the Guardian noted, “None of the defense lawyers have ever seen inside the maximum security facility, Camp 7, where detainees captured and tortured by the CIA – including Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times – are held.” The government has objected to the request on the grounds that it “could endanger the lives of those involved in such a visit.” Instead the lawyers have been offered an escorted tour of the camp, which one defense attorney likened to “jungle ride at Disneyland,” far from a “full and meaningful inspection.”
Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email firstname.lastname@example.org. More Natasha Lennard.
More Related Stories
- Peace Corps to allow gay couples to volunteer together
- Moore officials: Funds for "safe rooms" were held up by red tape
- Rand Paul: Congress should apologize to Apple, not the other way around
- Rescue crews race to find tornado survivors
- Looting in Oklahoma?
- Hundreds of low-wage federally contracted workers strike in D.C.
- Okla. mother's tearful reunion with her 8-year-old son
- New campaign compares gun control to anti-LGBT discrimination
- Study: Salt Lake City is gay parenting capital of the U.S.
- Inhofe and Coburn: Red state hypocrites
- Teen activist to meet with Abercrombie CEO
- Watch: Family emerges from storm shelter after tornado
- Must-see morning clip: Barackalypse Now
- Okla. tornado survivor reunited with dog trapped in rubble live on camera
- Is Pope Francis an exorcist?
- Oklahoma death count confirmed at 24, 9 children
- Frantic parents search for children in tornado's wake
- Crews dig through rubble after deadly tornado
- 51 killed in massive Oklahoma tornado
- Don't cry climate-change wolf
- Record tornado devastates Oklahoma
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11