I arrived at Ft. Meade’s theater a few minutes before the day’s Military Commission hearings were set to begin. Guantanamo Bay’s courtroom broadcasts a live feed of the hearings to a number of bases throughout the continental United States, including Ft. Meade. Hearings were set to begin yesterday, but they were delayed by a day, as the judge decided to spend monday discussing evidentiary matters with council.
As the session began, the judge had a brief colloquy with the five detainees in the room. After reading their rights, the judge asked them each in turn if they understood what had been said. The detainees all replied in the affirmative, though one of the defendants complained about his female defense council, claiming that she was not representing his interests.
After the judge finished the colloquy with the defendants, the remainder of the day’s session was spent in direct and cross-examination of a witness in the case, who for confidentiality purposes when by the name “Lieutenant Colonel (Lt. Col)”, relating to her use of female guards during her oversight of the detention facility where the defendants were being kept.
Emotions were fairly heated during these exchanges. The questioning related to a motion that would make permanent an order by the military commissions judge that would prevent female guards from having direct contact with detainees who, for religious reasons, are opposed to direct contact with un-related women. Defense council questioned the Lt. Col. about her awareness of the rules concerning cultural awareness, as well as her reasons for selecting the guards who would ultimately do searches of the prisoners’ rooms. The prosecution sought to emphasize the Lt. Col’s dedication to following Military Commission rules in a practical and efficient manner.
Throughout the hearing, trial participants voiced concerns about confidentiality. Prior to questioning of the witness, the military judge emphasized that today’s hearings would only focus on nonconfidential materials, and that feed would be cut off to the continental locations (such as Ft. Meade) if council or the witness mentioned any sealed information. As a result, there were numerous times throughout the hearing that the witness would hesitate to answer a question due to confidentiality concerns.
Council for the prosecution and defense spend both the morning and afternoon sessions questioning the Lt. Col. about her oversight of the detention center that she oversaw when female guards were given positions that put them in close contact with the detainees. Depending on whether the judge agrees, she may be brought back for another round of examination in the coming days.
By: Luke Purdy, 9 December 2015, 9/11 Hearings, Guantanamo Bay