Author: jonesjuw

Arrival at Guantanamo Bay to Monitor the 9/11 Pre-trial Hearings

I have been nominated and confirmed to monitor the 9/11 pre-trial hearings against the five alleged masterminds of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The hearings are scheduled to take place at the Guantanamo Naval Station, at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from December 5-9. I am participating as an affiliate of the Indiana University McKinney School of Law Program in International Human Rights Law (PIHRL), which is a non-governmental organization (NGO). You can see my previous blog posts regarding this mission here and here.

Arriving at Guantanamo Bay

I left Joint Base Andrews (JBA) at 8:00a on Saturday, December 3rd, my pre-departure blog post can be seen here. I flew over on a Boeing 767-200ER operated by Omni Air International. As an NGO observer, there was no cost to me for the flight. The flight was about half full and had approximately 110 passengers. I previously heard that the plane is usually divided into sections for different stakeholders. However, there was never any mention of sitting in a specific area and it appeared that everyone sat wherever they wanted to. It may have been different because the flight was so empty.

After arriving on base at about noon, the NGOs gathered in a group with our escort. There are eight NGO observers in my group, including myself. Our mission is to be the eyes and ears for the outside world. We are responsible for attending, observing, analyzing, critiquing, and reporting our experiences at the pre-trial hearings and Guantanamo Bay in general. We have an escort that helps us move around the base. Our escort also facilitates various needs that we have throughout our time at GTMO. The escort also ensures that we get to court and other places on time. This was our escort’s first time working as an NGO escort, although the escort has been to Guantanamo Bay multiple times.

After departing the plane, the NGOs went into a building where military personnel checked our passports and paperwork. The military personnel inspected our paperwork then sent us to a lobby in the building. Our escort made a phone call to see if we had a vehicle coming to pick us up. After about fifteen minutes, two vans arrived to take us and our luggage to Camp Justice. The main portion of the Naval Base is across Guantanamo Bay from the airport where the plane arrived. I, along with the other seven NGOs, were taken across Guantanamo Bay via ferry. It took about 20 minutes to get across Guantanamo Bay.

Arriving at Camp Justicedsc_0068After exiting the ferry, we were then driven to Camp Justice and had an opportunity to unpack and settle in. The accommodations have been surprisingly comfortable. We have had access to free internet (via Ethernet cord) in the MWR (morale, welfare, and recreation) tent, which is only 50 feet from the housing tents.

After we settled into camp, we were taken to have our badges made. We also received a short briefing from the head of security. A lot of the discussion focused on where we were allowed to take pictures. Within the Expeditionary Legal Center (ELC), we were informed that we could only take pictures in three areas. The head of security provided us a map that showed the areas that we could take pictures. I folded the map and took it with me when we were finished with the security briefing. After I walked outside the head of security came out and told me that he needed the map back. Without the map it was unclear where pictures were allowed to be taken in the ELC. The general rule at GTMO is to not take any pictures of structures that are inside a fence. Some areas also have signs that say “no photography.”dsc_0112

Around the island

Since we arrived on Saturday, and hearings do not start until Monday, we had the weekend to explore the base with our escort. On Saturday, we had a meeting lined up with the defense team for al Baluchi. The meeting was a great opportunity to speak with the defense team in an informal setting. They were very candid in their responses, and they answered all of the questions asked. It was nice to get their perspective, but I will reserve any judgment until I have had an opportunity to listen to the prosecution and see the hearings this week.

On Sunday, we went on a driving tour of the base. We started by drivindsc_0036g to Camp X-Ray. I had requested a foot tour of Camp X-Ray but our escort said that it takes at least a month to get approval to do a foot tour. We stopped on the road and were able to look at the camp. It was probably 150 yards from the road and was very overgrown with weeds and trees. We were not allowed to take photographs of Camp X-Ray. We were then taken to Windmill Hill, which provided excellent views of the island. We could also see the detention facilities from there. There were no pictures allowed there either. Next, we drove by Radio GTMO, which was closed. We then drove to Cable beach. Finally, we made our way back to Camp Justice.

A portion of our group then decided to go to the beach. We were informed that Girl Scout Beach would be the best beach for swimming. Hurricane

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Justin at Girl Scout Beach

Matthew caused some damage to the stairs that lead down to the beach, but it had been repaired recently. The beach was nice but sandals or beach shoes would have been helpful because it is very rocky. The water temperature was great and the water was very clear.img_4973

 

Part of the group finished the day at O’Kelly’s Irish Pub and the other half of our group watched Hacksaw Ridge at the Lyceum outdoor movie theater. I was happy to see that the base had many of the same amenities as home, although, it often creates a strange dichotomy. One minute you are driving by a football field and McDonalds, then the next minute you are driving by buildings and tents surrounds by fencing and razor wire.

The base also had a lot of holiday activities and decorations. There was a Christmas parade on Sunday, with decorated floats. The NEX (similar to a supermarket) had a bunch of decorated Christmas trees outside. Near the marina, there was a very large decorated tree and a bunch of outdoor Christmas decorations. When we are traveling through the base, it very much felt like any other town.

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Justin and two other NGOs.

I look forward to posting about the upcoming pre-trial hearings.

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Justin at Girl Scout Beach

 

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Iguana at Girl Scout Beach

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Justin’s room at Camp Justice

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Girl Scout Beach

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Girl Scout Beach

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Girl Scout Beach

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Justin W. Jones (J.D. Candidate, ’18)
NGO Monitor, U.S. Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP)
Program in International Human Rights Law
Indiana University McKinney School of Law

Awaiting Departure to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

I am now at Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility Washington, known as JBA – Joint Base

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Reading the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual the night before departure.

Andrews – awaiting my departure at 08:00. I was picked up, along with three other NGO Observers, at 04:00, at a hotel just outside of JBA. The check-in process was quick and very similar to checking into a civilian airport.

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Boarding ticket

We are fly to Guantanamo Bay to monitor hearings in the case against Khalid Shaik Mohammad and four other alleged masterminds of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The flight is scheduled to depart at 08:00. The original departure time was 10:00. I heard that the flight was moved up two hours because the pilot would have been over hours for the day if the flight departed at 10:00.

The hearings are scheduled to run from December 5 – 9. I will be returning to JBA on December 1o.

I have met the other NGO’s Observers and distributed excerpts from the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual.

I will be departing soon, and my next post will be from Cuba.

Justin W. Jones (J.D. Candidate, ’18)
NGO Monitor, U.S. Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP)
Program in International Human Rights Law
Indiana University McKinney School of Law

Preparing to travel to Guantanamo Bay to monitor 9/11 hearings

I was selected to travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to monitor the U.S. Military Commission in the case against the alleged masterminds of 9/11. I was approached just over a week ago by Professor Edwards when he was inquiring into my availability to travel to Guantanamo Bay either the first or second week of December. He informed me that there was no guarantee of nomination or acceptance, but I was very excited to even have the possibility of traveling to Guantanamo Bay to monitor the 9/11 hearings. I quickly responded that I was available to monitor the hearing during the first week of December. Less than 24 hours later I was on a video conference with Professor Edwards regarding my interest in traveling to Guantanamo Bay to monitor the 9/11 pre-trial hearing. I was nominated by the Program a few hours later and my information was sent to the Pentagon for selection approval. To my surprise, less than three hours after being nominated by the Program, I received the following email from the Office of Military Commissions (OMC) – Convening Authority:

Good afternoon Justin,

You have been CONFIRMED to observe the December 5-9 9/11 military commission in-person at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. We are scheduled to depart Andrews Air Force Base at 1000 on Saturday, December 3, 2016, and will return on Saturday, December 10, 2016, around 1330.

I was very excited to have received the confirmation, and I was incredibly surprised that it occurred so quickly. I was concerned that the process might be slowed down by the upcoming holiday, so I was very happy to have received the confirmation the same day.

The Logistics

On the evening of December 2nd, I will be arriving at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Arlington, VA. That night I will be staying at a hotel at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. Joint Base Andrews was formed when Andrews Air Force base and Naval Air Facility Washington merged in 2009. I am scheduled to deparusbaset Joint Base Andrews at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, December 3rd. I plan to arrive at Guantanamo Bay from December 3rd until December 10th. Travel plans have frequently changed during other NGOs’ missions, so I am trying to book refundable tickets in case anything changes in the next week. I currently do not have any information on the type of plane or the estimated time of arrival in Guantanamo Bay.

Paperwork

In the email that I received from the OMC – Convening Authority, I was informed that I would need to complete and return four documents: (1) a hold harmless agreement, (2) an invitational travel worksheet, (3) a Department of Navy base access pass registration, and (4) the NGO ground rules. Aline Fagundes was kind enough to provide me with copies of

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Aline at Guantanamo Bay

her paperwork so that I could use them as a guide to properly fill out my forms. The forms are generally self-explanatory; however, there are some parts of the forms that would be difficult to accurately fill out without having a sample. I am currently working on creating a pdf with sample forms and instructions for completing the four documents required by the OMC.

I did run into an issue with sending the documents back to the OMC. I sent the four documents as .pdf attachments. Three of them went through fine, but the OMC told me that one of the documents was too dark. I opened the document up and it looked great on my end. I resent the document but again the OMC stated that the document was too dark. I rescanned the document into individual pictures (not .pdf). Then I sent the document in two individual attachments, with one page in each attachment. This time the OMC was able to clearly read the document. I used the same scanner both times and both times the document was clear and legible on my end.

NOTE: If the OMC is having issues reading your document, try to send the document in .jpeg format instead of .pdf.

Preparing for the Hearing

                I still have a lot of work to do in the next week. First, I will

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Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual

continue to review the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual. I will also be checking mc.mil to review the pleadings and filing that are currently available. Hopefully, by early next week, mc.mil will have more up-to-date postings. I will also be speaking with Aline because she was the last IU Affiliate to attend a 9/11 hearing. I was at Ft. Meade in October to observe the al Nashiri pre-trial hearing, see the blog post here, but I am not up-to-date on the 9/11 hearings yet.

 

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Justin at Ft. Meade

Conclusion

I am honored to have been selected to travel to Guantanamo Bay to monitor the 9/11 hearing. I look forward to documenting my experience and providing my analysis of the proceedings.

Justin W. Jones, J.D. Candidate (2018)
NGO Monitor, U.S. Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP)
Program in International Human Rights Law
Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Observations from Ft. Meade: Monitoring al Nashiri’s Guantanamo Bay pre-trial hearing

I was selected to travel to Ft. Meade, Maryland to monitor U.S. Military Commission pre-trial hearings broadcast live via CCTV from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to a secure Ft. Meade facility.  I represented the Indiana University McKinney School of Law’s Military Commission Observation Project, which has been sending faculty, staff, students, and graduates to Guantanamo Bay and Ft. Meade to monitor these war crimes proceedings.  The case I was dispatched to monitor was against Abd al-Rahim Hussein Muhammed Abdu al-Nashiri, who is alleged to have masterminded the 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole that killed 17 U.S. sailors, and wounded dozens more, off the coast of Yemen. I observed the hearings on October 18th and 19th.

Arriving at Ft. Meade

I arrived at Ft. Meade on Tuesday morning, October, 18 2016, and went to the base Visitor Center to pick up my badge that would permit me to enter the base.  I encountered a slight delay there, as they could not locate my badge.  After about fifteen minutes, one of the employees found the badge in a file on the front reception desk.  She informed the other employee that all of the badges for the hearings are kept in a folder at the reception desk.

Note: If you arrive at the Ft. Meade Visitor Center and they can’t find your badge, ask if it is inside a folder at the reception desk!

After they found my badge, they took my photograph and handed me a paper badge that would allow me access to Ft. Meade for two days.  The receptionist told me to exit through the left side of the parking lot and to proceed to the vehicle inspection area.  After a brisk inspection of the vehicle, I was on the base and easily found the McGill Training Center, where the hearing would simultaneously broadcast from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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Justin at Ft. Meade Commissary

I parked in an apartment parking lot that is located across the street from the McGill Training Center.  I made my way into the building and to the door of the viewing room, which was like a medium-sized high school classroom.  The video feed was already being broadcast and there were four observers in the room, along with a person who I understand was a contractor hired to oversee the process.

In the back of the room is a big chest with individual small lockers where you can store cell phones.  Knowing that cell phones were not allowed to be used in the room, I had left my cell phone in the rental car.

The video was clear, and the sound quality was generally good.  At times the video feed or sound would cut out briefly but it was not often and generally only lasted for a couple minutes.  The room was very cold both days.  I would suggest that anyone observing hearings at the McGill Training Center to dress in layers and bring a light jacket.

al Nashiri Hearing Observations

Military Uniforms

I noticed that the prosecution’s military counsel, namely Chief Prosecutor Mr. Martins, wore a highly decorated uniform compared to the less decorated uniform of the Detailed Defense Counsel, Ms. Pollio.  I have some concern that a jury may be influenced, whether consciously or subconsciously, into believing that Mr. Martin is more credible or knowledgeable because he is more highly decorated than Ms. Pollio.  Although a jury may always form some judgment of an attorney’s capability or credibility by their appearance, attorneys in civilian courts do not display their achievements and accomplishments on their clothing.  al Nashiri may be prejudiced by the prosecution counsel appearing to be a higher ranked and more qualified military member.

Mr. Martin

Mr. Martin

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Ms. Pollio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

al Nashiri’s Presence in Court

al Nashiri was present for most of the court proceedings on October 18th and 19th.

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al Nashiri

However, al Nashiri was absent for a little over an hour of the hearing on October 18th.  On October 18th, the court took a brief recess and when the court returned al Nashiri was absent. Mr. Kammen, the defendant’s civilian attorney, informed the court that al Nashiri was not feeling well and that he was in a backroom that had a video feed of the court.  al Nashiri’s counsel confirmed with the court that he voluntarily absented himself from the court proceedings.

 

The prosecution said that there was an issue with al Nashiri’s absence because there had been no in court waiver.  Specifically, Mr. Martin asked the judge to bring al Nashiri back to the courtroom until there was an in court waiver.  The judge said that he was comfortable with al Nashiri’s absence from the court because al Nashiri’s counsel, Mr. Kammen, had spoken with al Nashiri and the absence was going to be brief (approximately thirty minutes).  The judge made a finding that al Nashiri voluntarily removed himself from the court proceedings.  The hearing went for another thirty minutes or so and then the court took recess for lunch.  After the lunch recess, Al Nashiri was back in the courtroom and the judge questioned him regarding his prior absence from the court.  al Nashiri confirmed that he was previously not feeling well and that he had voluntarily left the proceedings.

I felt that the judge made great strides to ensure that the record clearly reflected al Nashiri’s absence being voluntary and uncoerced.  However, I do feel that the process would be more transparent if the video feed showed al Nashiri more often.  Because the video was generally either showing the lectern or the judge, al Nashiri was not seen on the video very often.  I would estimate that over the course of the two days I was in Ft. Meade, I saw al Nashiri on the video feed for a total of approximately ten minutes.  I would have preferred a split screen that showed whoever was speaking and also showed the defense table.  I think the public would benefit from being able to see that al Nashiri was present and engaged in his trial.

I hope we are not arguing about parking spaces

During most of the October 18th and 19th hearings, the days were spent hearing arguments regarding the defense’s claim that the prosecution may have attempted to unlawfully influence the Court of Military Commissions Review (“CMCR”).  The defense had filed a motion to compel the prosecution to release all ex parte communications.  The prosecution had put together a binder of emails, which they voluntarily provided to the judge for him to perform an in-camera review.  The prosecution claimed that the emails were administrative in nature and non-discoverable.  The prosecution further claimed privilege and judicial privilege for the emails.  The judge informed the parties that the only emails at issue were two email chains–-exhibits 355e tabs 3 and 10.  The judge stated “wouldn’t it be better for the public trust to hand them to the defense.”  The judge said that he was keeping the public trust in mind.  Many times throughout the hearing the judge asked if this was really something they wanted to spend time arguing about.  It appeared to me that that judge thought that the two emails chains were not something that the court should be spending two days hearing arguments about.

The defense’s position was that the emails must be relevant and important because the prosecution was fighting so hard to keep them out of the defense’s hands.  The prosecution seemed to be arguing that it was more about principle and that they were not legally required to turn the emails over.  In this respect it appeared that the prosecution was less concerned with the public’s interest in having an open hearing.  Although, the prosecution did argue that it was better for the public’s trust in the proceedings to follow the law and not turn over emails that are not discoverable.  Mr. Kammen retorted by stating that secrecy destroys the public’s confidence, especially in a court where the rules are constantly changing.  Mr. Kammen closed the defense’s argument by saying that he hoped that they had not spent all day arguing about emails that were related to where the prosecution was supposed to park.

The judge granted the motion, but only as to exhibit 355e tabs 3 and 10.  The judge stated that one tab is about parking and the other tab is an administrative discussion about who is going to do a security review.  The remainder of the discovery request was not granted and will stay under seal in the record.  The judge appeared to be annoyed that two days had been spent arguing over emails that were administrative and generally unimportant.  The judge stated that the emails are not privileged and not discoverable.  However, because the prosecution had voluntarily provided them to the judge for an in-camera review, he was obligated to make a decision on them.

After the decision, Mr. Martin basically stated that he did not think that the judge had the authority to order the government to turn over the emails.  The judge retorted that he was confident that he had the authority.  The judge informed Mr. Martin that he had made a decision and had the authority to do so.  He told Mr. Martin that the court was about to take a recess for lunch and that Mr. Martin should turn the emails over to the defense during the recess.  The judge also told the defense counsel to think about what remedy they would ask for in case the prosecution did not turn over the emails.  After the court returned from lunch, the prosecution turned over the exhibits 355e tabs 3 and 10, although Mr. Martin continued to argue that he did not believe that the government was required to do so.

I understand the need to follow the law.  In this case, considering that the prosecution had voluntarily provided the emails to the court, I think it was proper to release them.  If the emails were not released, it would have seriously eroded my confidence that the emails were only administrative in nature.  The prosecution fought very hard to keep the emails out of the defense’s hands, and it seemed to me that the emails likely contained ex parte communication that was not just administrative.  I was somewhat surprised when Mr. Martin agreed to turn over the emails after the lunch recess.  However, his doing so made me feel that the proceedings were more transparent and that the prosecution was not concealing unlawful ex parte communications.

Repeated Defense Counsel Complaints

Unlike an Article Three court, the defense cannot simply call anyway witnesses that they would like to question.  Mr. Kammen repeatedly stated that the prosecution must approve of any witness that the defense wishes to call.  If a person’s testimony was going to be severely adverse to the prosecution, it appears, according to Mr. Kammen’s argument, that the prosecution could deny the defense the opportunity to call that person as a witness.  This seems very unfair and it would certainly hinder the defense counsel’s ability to properly defend al Nashiri.  Additionally, the ability to keep relevant witnesses out of the courtroom significantly hurts the transparency of the proceedings.  If the Commission wishes to have transparent proceedings, all relevant witnesses should be allowed to testify.  This is the only way to ensure that the proceedings will result in a just outcome.

Another claim by the defense is that al Nashiri’s housing during the hearings is inadequate.  The defense wants to call two witnesses, both are employees at Guantanamo Bay, but the prosecution is not allowing them to call the witnesses.  At the same time, the prosecution is stating that the defense has the burden to prove the claim.  al Nashiri’s defense counsel, Mr. Kammen, complained that it is unfair for him to have the burden to prove a claim but not have the ability to call the witnesses that he needs in order to prove the claim.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, I feel that the judge was working hard to get past some of the petty arguments raised by both sides.  He came across as being very aware that the process needed to be as transparent as possible.  However, the case does not appear to be close to actually going to trial yet.  Considering that this case has been going on for 16 years, there has to be a way for the Commission to act more efficiently, while also serving justice in a fair and transparent manner.

For those who are interested in being an observer, I highly encourage you to apply.  The IU McKinney Military Commission Observation Project is a unique opportunity and has been designed to get observers up to speed quickly.  I found that the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual was very helpful for gaining an understanding of the proceedings and the background information necessary to understand the hearings.

Justin W. Jones, J.D. Candidate (2018)
NGO Monitor, U.S. Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP)
Program in International Human Rights Law
Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

 

Preparing To Travel To Ft. Meade

Introduction

My name is Justin W. Jones and I am a 3L evening student at the IU McKinney School of Law. I work as an accountant, and I am also an extern at the United Staaeaaqaaaaaaaaiiaaaajdc1yjhlyjg5ltliodgtngmyys1hmdqzlwfkmmm3zdm5ymiyyqates District Court- Southern District of Indiana. I am honored to have been selected as an observer for the IU McKinney U.S. Military Commission Observation Project and look forward to contributing to the project. I am scheduled to monitor the hearing of Abd al-Rahim Hussein Muhammed Abdu al-Nashiri. My fellow IU McKinney classmate, David Frangos, has an excellent post on this blog discussing the upcoming al-Nashiri hearing (dated October 10, 2016).

As I type this post, I am currently finishing a fall break road trip with my fiancée and daughter. We are driving over 4,000 miles in nine days and have had the opportunity to see and experience many great parts of our country. Some of the highlighdsc_0084ts of the trip were Yellowstone National Park, Jackson Hole, the Badlands, and Mt. Rushmore.

While looking at Mt. Rushmore, I was reminded of a quote by Abraham Lincoln: “[A] law may be both constitutional and expedient, and yet may be administered in an unjust and unfair way.” The Military Commission Observation Project allows us to hold our government accountable for administering our laws in a just and fair manner. We owe it not only to the defendants, but also the victims and their families, the media, the prosecutors, and everyone else to ensure that our government is held to a high standard that makes us proud to be Americans. My goal is to accurately and impartially report my observations.

Schedule

I will be monitoring the proceedings in the case against al Nashiri. He is the alleged mastermind of the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole, which resulted in the death of 17 U.S. sailors. The hearing was originally scheduled to run from October 17 to October 21. I have been informed that the court has reduced the hearing down to three days, October 17-19. I will be leaving Indianapolis on October 18 and plan to arrive at Ft. Meade by 8:30am the same day. If everything occurs as scheduled, I will be able to monitor the hearing on October 18 and 19.

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         al Nashiri

I was notified that the hearing scheduled for today was delayed until the early afternoon. Further, the video feed to Ft. Meade was not working. Hopefully the IT issues will be fixed by tomorrow morning.

Preparing for the hearing

I have used the many hours I’ve spent in the car over the past week to prepare for the upcoming hearing. I have been reading the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual and the many excellent posts on this blog. I hope that my efforts are beneficial in promoting transparency in the legal proceedings that will occur this week.

I look forward to making more posts in the next couple of days.