Jeff Meding

Afghan money changer pleads for release from Guantanamo Bay

Haji Wali Mohammed, an Afghan money changer, seeks release from Guantanamo Bay

Haji Wali Mohammed, an Afghan money changer, seeks release from Guantanamo Bay

This morning an Afghan who traded currency with the Taliban formally asked the U.S. to release him from Guantanamo Bay after over 14 years of imprisonment.

Haji Wali Mohammad, who is referred to as “Wali Mohammed” or “Mr. Mohammed” by his U.S. Government personal representative and his private counsel, hopes that the PRB will find that he is not a threat to US national security, and that the U.S. Government will thus release him from Guantanamo Bay. A detainee may either be repatriated to his home country, or resettled to a third country.

There seems to be agreement across the board that Wali Mohammed operated a currency exchange business and conducted financial transactions in the 1990s, when the government of Afghanistan was under Taliban control, and that some of the transactions involved Taliban members or Taliban controlled entities, and there seems to be agreement that transactions with certain entities occurred before, during and after the Taliban was in control.

The U.S. government noted:

We assess with moderate confidence that AF-560 conducted financial transactions for Usama Bin Ladin in 1998 and 1999, either directly or through his ties to the Taliban, and was probably motivated by financial gain. We note identifying details for AF-560 have been corroborated, but there has been minimal reporting on AF-560’s transactions completed on behalf of Bin Ladin. Efforts to link AF-560 to Bin Ladin are complicated by several factors, including incomplete reporting, multiple individuals with AF-560’s name-Haji Wali Mohammad, and lack of post-capture reflections. AF-560 was captured on 24 January 2002.

The U.S. government continued:

AF-560 during his detention has never made statements clearly endorsing or supporting al·Qa’ida or other extremist ideology, but probably has a pragmatic view of the role the Taliban held in Afghanistan. He most likely judged that it was prudent to work with, rather than against, the Taliban Government in the 1990s. During his detention, AF-560 appears to have formed a more liberal view of politics in Afghanistan and has said the Taliban will have to change if they want to remain viable in the country, including changing their policy on women’s rights and education.

Countering, the Wali Mohammed’s private counsel contended:

Wali Mohammed’s business was currency exchange. He bought and sold currency in Pakistan and the UAE with the aim of capitalizing on differences in exchange rates. As he has freely admitted, in late 1997 and early 1998, he entered into a partnership to pursue such a currency arbitrage with the Central Bank of Afghanistan -then under the control of the Taliban government. As Wali Mohammed has said, and as an expert on his behalf confirmed ,such partnerships were commonplace before, during, and after the Taliban regime. Wali Mohammed described, and the expert confirms, the sudden and significant volatility in the value of the Pakistani rupee in 1998.

The result was a catastrophic loss -roughly a half-million of the $1.5 million the Central Bank had invested. After the Taliban government learned of the loss, investigators fired the head of the Central Bank, threatened Wali Mohammed with prison, actually imprisoned his cousin, and forced the entire loss on him – in violation of the terms of the deal. This is not the kind of treatment one would expect of someone who was part of or of any importance to the Taliban.

The disastrous failure of the Central Bank transaction also makes it implausible that Wali Mohammed conducted financial transactions for Osama Bin Ladin thereafter -leaving aside that Mr. Mohammed speaks little Arabic and bin Ladin spoke no Pashto. Two intelligence experts on behalf of Mr. Mohammed -one, the former Director of Human Intelligence Collection for the DIA; and the other, a former DIA intelligence analyst, identities expert, and, after the 9/11 attacks, a CIA contractor and charter member of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, the National Counter Terrorism Center, and the Advanced Analytics Team -have shown, consistent with the Detainee Profile, that the identification of Mr. Mohammed is problematic .Even the late Taliban leader, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, reportedly carried a passport bearing the name “Wali Mohammed.”

This Periodic Review Board (PRB) was ordered pursuant to a 2-11 Executive Order for Guantanamo detainees.

Indiana McKinney involvement in this PRB

This morning’s PRB had no representation by the Periodic Review Board Project (PRBP) of the Indiana University McKinney School of Law. To date, I am the sole individual from the PRBP monitoring PRBs on site, and I have attended several PRBs over the last several months. Postings about these PRBs can be found here.

We nominated Mr. Jeffrey Meding, a McKinney Juris Doctor graduate, to attend today’s hearings, but his request to attend and monitor has not been granted. We are in discussions with the Periodic Review Secretariat (www.prs.mil) further to seek permission for Mr. Meding to attend PRBs, and for others affiliated with our PRB project (PRBP) to attend, particularly when I am not able to attend.

As it happens, in any event, I did not receive my usual clearance from the Pentagon to attend today’s PRB, though I submitted my request to attend last week. Typically, a day or so before the PRB, the Pentagon sends cleared observers an e-mail with details about permissions, logistics, and rules. I did not receive such and e-mail yesterday before this morning’s (25th) scheduled PRB.

We look forward to clarity in the process, and full opportunities to cover PRBs, under one or more of the various categories of persons / entities permitted to observe PRBs – whether media, non-media NGO, non-media individual.

As I did not attend this morning’s hearings, at this point I do not know whether Wali Mohammed actually attended his PRB this morning, or indeed whether the PRB went forward as scheduled. I cannot comment on his apparent demeanor, his looks or clothing, his interaction or non-interaction with the others in the room, whether there were any technical or other difficulties, or anything else of note regarding this PRB. I cannot comment on the efficiency of our usual Pentagon escorts this morning, though it is likely that all went like clockwork, as is typical, from pickup at the Pentagon’s Visitor Center, through badge clearances, winding-hall walking, and escort to the Pentagon’s exit post-hearing.

But as for the PRB hearings themselves, reading the text of submitted documents before the hearings does not provide a full picture of the hearing. Reading transcripts post-hearings does not provide a full picture of the hearing. Reading news reports or postings by NGOs also does not offer a full picture of the hearing. Short of being present in the PRB room at Guantanamo Bay, the best place to observe PRB hearings is in the closed, secure conference room at the Pentagon. In that room, you can see and hear in a way that is more helpful than just reading.

Standing in front of Camp Justice.

Jeff Meding in front of GTMO’s Camp Justice.

Mr. Meding was the first Indiana University McKinney Affiliate to travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on behalf of the Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP) of the Indiana University McKinney School of Law.

Mr. Meding’s PRB participation on behalf of the McKinney Law School’s PBRP was approved by the MCOP Advisory Council. Furthermore, the Office of General Counsel of Indiana University cleared our Pentagon travelers for PRB purposes. We now await the Pentagon’s grant of permission for us to send IU McKinney Affiliates to observe PRBs at the Pentagon.

Again, we hope that we receive permission to have full representation at the PRBs that are being broadcast to the Pentagon, typically on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

My PRB posts

Many of my PRB postings can be found here:

https://gitmoobserver.com/blog/

Jeffrey Meding’s Guantanamo Bay posts

Following are some posts by Jeff Meding from his 2012 mission to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to monitor U.S. Military Commission hearings on behalf of the Military Commission Observation Project of the Indiana University McKinney School of Law:

https://gitmoobserver.com/2014/03/21/gtmo-impressions-jeff-meding-2/

https://gitmoobserver.com/2014/04/12/12-april-2014/

https://gitmoobserver.com/2014/04/14/14-april-2014-1st-day-of-hearings/

https://gitmoobserver.com/2014/04/15/15-april-2014-2nd-day-of-hearings/

https://gitmoobserver.com/2014/04/17/16-april-2014-hearing-adjourned-until-thursday/

https://gitmoobserver.com/2014/04/18/17-april-2014-final-day-of-hearings-selected-pics/

Additional PRB & PRBP Information

Additional information about PRBs can be found here:

https://gitmoobserver.com/blog/

Additional Information abour the Guantanamo Bay Periodic Review Board Project can be found at:

https://gitmoobserver.com/prbs/

 

PS:  The full U.S. government unclassified statement on Wali Mohammed is here:

 

The full Personal Representative Statement & Private Counsel Statement are here:

By George Edwards

Training to Monitor Trials at Guantanamo Bay

MCOP - Pre-Departure - 11 April 2014 - Classroom shot

IU McKinney Law Affiliates During Briefing to Monitor Guantanamo Bay trials. Some in the photo are members of Professor Edwards’ Spring 2014 International Law class that studied the international law aspects of the 9-11 attacks, other crimes, and jurisdiction to try such crimes.

Guantanamo Bay Briefing

This photo is the of  first group of Indiana University McKinney Law School Affiliates to be part of a Pre-Departure Briefing for monitoring US Military Commission hearings.

The Pentagon awarded IU McKinney’s Program in International Human Rights Law (PIHRL) special “NGO Observer Status” permitting the PIHRL (pronounced “Pearl”) to send IU McKinney Affiliates (students, faculty, staff and graduates) to monitor hearings at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba or at Ft. Meade, Maryland. The training of this first group took place in Indianapolis at the law school on Friday, 11 April 2014.

MCOP Briefing Book; Geneva Conventions

The MCOP Briefing Book — About 2000 pages on Military Commission law and practice. Participants were also provided copies of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the Protocols Additional.

In the picture are four IU Affiliates who traveled to Ft. Meade in April for hearings in the 9-11 World Trade Center bombing case and the 2000 U.S.S. Cole bombing case. Also pictured are two IU Affiliates who traveled to Guantanamo Bay for hearings in both those cases in April.

Mr. Rick Kammen (center of photo with jeans and light top), who is a lawyer for defendant al Nashiri in the USS Cole Case, lectured on the history of U.S. Military Commissions, substantive and procedural law related to the Guantanamo Bay Military Commissions, litigation strategies, and the logistical difficulties associated with trying cases at a base on an island, away from the Mainland U.S.

Those pictured whose mission was to Ft. Meade are Jeffrey Kerner, Jeff Papa, and Hattie Harman.

Judge Pat Riley (Indiana Court of Appeals) is pictured behing Rick Kammen’s right shoulder.

Professor George Edwards (PIHRL Founding Director & MCOP Founding Director) appears at the far right of the photo.

Absent from the photo above are Jeff Meding (who was in Washington DC for his flight from Andrews Air Force Base to GTMO the next day) and Luke Bielawski, who went to Ft. Meade. Luke is in the photo below.

Briefing Book

Left to right: Luke Bielawski (Ft. Meade – USS Cole), Jeffrey Werner (Ft. Meade – 9-11), George Edwards (Ft. Meade – USS Cole; Guantanamo Bay – US v. David Hicks), Judge Patricia Riley (Guantanamo Bay – USS Cole), Jeff Papa (Ft. Meade – USS Cole) & Hattie Harman (Ft. Meade – 9-11). Absent is Jeff Meding (Guantanamo Bay – 9-11, who was en route to Andrews Air Force Base for his flight to GTMO)

Left to right: Luke Bielawski (Ft. Meade,  USS Cole), Jeffrey Werner (Ft. Meade, 9-11), George Edwards (Ft. Meade, USS Cole; Guantanamo Bay, US v David Hicks), Judge Patricia Riley (Guantanamo Bay, USS Cole), Jeff Papa (Ft. Meade, USS Cole) & Hattie Harman (Ft. Meade, 9-11). Absent is Jeff Meding (Guantanamo Bay, 9-11, who was en route to Andrews for his GTMO flight)

The  Pre-Departure Briefing Book of the MCOP was compiled by Mr. Jeff Meding, Ms. Qifan Wang, Ms. Kristin Brockett, and Professor George Edwards. For each cycle of hearings, a Supplementary Briefing Book will be prepared and distributed to all participants. A copy of our Briefing Book is now permanently housed in the NGO Observer Compound at Guantanamo Bay for subsequent McKinney Affiliates and others to use on their Missions to GTMO for hearings or trials.

My Last Day at Guantanamo Bay (Jeff Meding)

My Last Morning at GTMO. As the sun rose.

My Last Morning at GTMO. As the sun rose.

Winding Up My Mission To Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
My last day at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba was the 18th of April 2014. I woke up early, at 5:30 a.m., to pack and get to breakfast before it was time to leave. We had to catch a ferry by 7 a.m. that would take us to the Guantanamo Bay landing strip for our flight back to Andrews Air Force Base.

An Amazing Experience
My time at GTMO was, very simply, an amazing experience!

First, all of the NGO’s on the trip were great. Although we inevitably had various views about the MC, everyone was very respectful of each other’s opinions. There were productive conversations between the group members and it was beneficial to hear various viewpoints that I had not considered.

Second, Ben Fenwick and Joanna Leichtman, our MC escorts for the weekend, were fabulous! They were both extremely organized, accommodating, and genuinely nice people. They made the trip that much more enjoyable!

OMC escorts, Ben Fenwick and Joanna Leichtman, were amazing during the mission to GTMO!

OMC escorts, Ben Fenwick and Joanna Leichtman, were amazing during the mission to GTMO!

Third, the entire GTMO military community was very welcoming. I feel lucky I had the opportunity to meet these extraordinary men and women.

Also, I learned a great deal that will help me in my career as a lawyer. Being in the courtroom is very different from reading about motion hearings in criminal cases.

Finally, the ability to witness the 9/11 MC Hearings was a once in a lifetime experience.

Divisiveness? Controversy?
There is no doubt that the Military Commissions are divisive as an issue.

This became especially clear after the news this week that the FBI allegedly questioned a member of the defense team of defendant Ramzi Binalshibh, who is charged with Khalid Shaid Mohammad and others in the 9/11 case. The person who was approached was the defendant’s Defense Security Officer (DSO), who is a civilian who assists the defense team handle classified evidence. The FBI had the DSO sign a non-disclosure agreement. This revelation caused the judge to halt the proceedings because it potentially has created a conflict of interest issue between the defense attorneys and their clients. Until this issue is resolved, nothing else is going to move forward in the 9/11 case.

The ferry coming to pick us up and take us to the landing strip for the flight back to Andrews Air Force Base.

Ferry coming to pick us up and take us to the landing strip for the flight back to Andrews Air Force Base.

Arguments For and Against the 9/11 Case Being Tried in a Military Tribunal
I understand that there are arguments on both sides of the aisle as to why this case should or should not be in military court.

The Prosecution wants to try this case in a MC in GTMO because of the potential safety concerns if it was in U.S. Federal Court. Also, I think the Prosecution wants this case in a MC because they do not want the alleged torture of the defendants to be admitted into evidence.

Now, I am not going to pretend to be an expert in the distinction between the Rules of Evidence in Federal Court vs. Military Commissions. However, after reading the rules and talking with various people from the Defense Teams, as well as NGO’s, it seems that in Federal Court the alleged torture information would be more likely to be admitted into evidence.

Finally, right now, GTMO seems to be the only place where the Prosecution can try the defendants.

Bringing the defendants to the U.S. and trying them in Federal Court is not an option under the National Defense Authorization Act for FY2014, which “contains an absolute bar on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees into the United States for any purpose, and also prohibits the building or modifying of facilities in the United State to house such detainees.” See Jennifer K. Elsea and Michael John Garcia, The National Defense Authorization Act for FY2012 and Beyond: Detainee Matters, pg. 42 (2014).

The Defense on the other hand thinks this case should be tried in Federal Court, not a MC. Based off of my conversations with members of the Defense Teams, I think the Defense believes their clients will not receive a fair trial in a MC. Some issues presented in this MC include due process, attorney-client privilege, and conflict of interest concerns.

Also, based on the Governments involvement in this case, there seems to have been an erosion of the professional working relationship between the Prosecution and Defense Teams. For example, various events have been reported that have created a sense of distrust of the Government and Prosecution in this case. Some events include CIA censorship of the proceedings, smoke detectors that were installed with listening devices in the meeting rooms of the defendants and their attorneys, and the disappearance of Defense Team information that was stored on hard drives.

Leaving GTMO.

Leaving GTMO.

Frustration
Overall, the latest delay in the case seems to be frustrating for everyone involved with the Military Commissions, especially the family members of the 9/11 victims.

What Happens in Vegas?
As these hearings plod along, it is interesting that the 9/11 case is not getting more national news coverage. The famous saying “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” unfortunately seems applicable to GTMO.

By Jeff Meding, Military Commission Observation Project, Indiana University McKinney School of Law

_______

 

Final Day of GTMO 9/11 Hearings (Jeff Meding) (17 April 2016)

En route to the final 9/11 hearings for April 2014. Please see below a picture of me standing in front of the Camp Justice sign. Also, you will see a photo of the entire NGO group that was taken right before the hearing today.

Standing in front of Camp Justice.

Standing in front of Camp Justice.

All of the NGO's taking a photo in front of the Camp Justice sign.

All of the NGO’s taking a photo in front of the Camp Justice sign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, as predicted, today’s hearing was over in less than an hour. It started a 0907 AM and recessed at 0950 AM. KSM, Ramzi Binalshibh, and Ammar al-Baluchi were present when the MC was called to order. The FBI issue (292) was the main focal point of this hearing. In fact, between the hearing being adjourned on Tuesday and resuming today, the Defense counsel filed a discovery motion (292D). In response to this Motion, the Government filed (292F ex parte) requesting time to file a submission by a newly detailed trial counsel. Finally, the Defense counsel filed an objection (292G) to the Government’s 292F motion.

Special Trial Counsel Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez, an official of the U.S. DOJ, was appointed to represent the U.S. in all matters relating to 292 (FBI issue). The Prosecution team wants to insulate itself from any 292 issue.

Judge Pohl worked out some procedural matters on how to proceed forward with the hearings and address the 292 issue. And just like that, the hearings were over and the court was recessed.

Below is a link to the Transcript of today’s Hearing.

KSM II ((TRANS17April2014-AM)

 

By Jeff Meding, Military Commission Observation Project, Indiana University McKinney School of Law

9/11 Guantanamo Hearings Adjourned Until Thursday (Jeff Meding)

Since the hearing was adjourned until Thursday, a couple of NGO’s went to Windmill Beach to go snorkeling and scuba diving. I wish I had an underwater camera because we were in a great area for snorkeling. That being said, I noticed at times it is easy to forget you are at GTMO. For example, one moment I am watching a school of fish swim by while I am snorkeling, and the next moment, as I come up from the water, I see an area of GTMO surrounded by barbed wire. The contrasting images do throw you off a bit because you are surrounded by this beautiful water, but at the same time you are on a military base.

After the beach, we went to dinner and I came back and worked on the Blog. Unfortunately, most people are under the assumption that tomorrow’s hearing is going to be over very quickly. I hope this is not the case, but if I was a betting man, I would bet that it will be over before 10 AM.

I will be sure to fill everyone in once I get out of the court room.

By Jeff Meding, Military Commission Observation Project, Indiana University McKinney School of Law

Jeff Meding at Guantanamo Bay — 15 April 2014

Today lasted longer than yesterday’s roughly 40 minute hearing. However, it was still over by 11:15 AM.

As the hearing began, it was noticeable that only KSM and Ramzi Binalshibh were present. Walid bin Attash, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali aka Ammar al-Baluchi, and Mustafa al Hawsawi were not present when the MC was called to order at 0915 on 15 April 2014. Captain G, a liaison between the Staff Judge Advocate and the JTF-GTMO camp in which the detainees are held, testified that she advised each defendant of their right to be present at the hearing. Each of the three defendants waived their right to be present. As a procedural note, I imagine Captain G’s full name was not released for security concerns, although this was never addressed during her testimony.

The entire hearing dealt with the conflict of interest issue. This issue was created when 2 FBI agents interviewed the Deputy Security Officer (DSO) for Ramzi Binalshibh’s Defense team. The DSO acts as a liaison with defense counsel on what evidence should be considered classified and what evidence should be considered unclassified in court filings. Although the DSO from Binalshibh’s team has been removed, the conflict of interest issue is the sticking point right now. Judge Pohl referred to this as the FBI interview issue (292).

All five Defense teams want an abatement of the hearings until the conflict of interest issue is resolved, while the Prosecution wants Judge Pohl to deny the abatement request and move onto the original docket. Specifically, the Defense teams want the Commission to conduct an inquiry as to whether or not a conflict actually exists. Mr. Nevin, lead defense counsel for KSM, said case law requires an inquiry when a “specter of a conflict is presented.” The Defenses argument is that there is a possibility that a conflict exists because of this FBI investigation; therefore, an inquiry must be conducted by the Commission. Defense cited 3 SCOTUS cases in support of their argument. The cases were Wood v. Georgia, Cuyler v. Sullivan, and Holloway v. Arkansas.

On the other side of the aisle, the Prosecution wants Judge Pohl to address the originally scheduled docket and come back and look at the conflict of interest issue at a later hearing. It is the Prosecution’s contention that there is “no legally cognizable conflict of interest” for any of the defense attorneys; therefore, the hearing should proceed as originally intended and the 909 issue should be addressed.

The most interesting exchange of the hearing occurred when Judge Pohl questioned Mr. Ryan, an attorney for the DOJ and co-counsel for the Prosecution. Judge Pohl asked Ryan, based on his experience, since it it is an ongoing investigation, did Ryan think it would be unlikely that the 2 FBI agents would cooperate if the Judge issued an order for them to appear? Mr. Ryan stated “[I] think the commission would be greatly mistaken to go down a road of trying to look inside an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, if, in fact, one is in — exists.” The Courts inability to order certain agencies — namely the FBI — to come testify gives off the initial impression that there is a lack of control by the MC over the proceedings. Which brings the question: Ultimately, who is in control of these proceedings?

I think Judge Pohl should just bifurcate the issues. Since the defense is not challenging Binalshibh’s competency, I don’t understand how they would be conflicted to let the Prosecution present evidence on the 909 issue. The MC could use this week to figure out Binalshibh’s competency, then it can move onto the FBI issue (292) during the next round of hearings. This would allow the Prosecution to address the 909 issue and it would also allow the Defense to have an inquiry conducted into the FBI investigation before the next scheduled hearings. It seems to me to be the pragmatic solution. With all of this being said, I understand the gravity of the conflict of interest issue and I am sure Judge Pohl would rather be safe than sorry. He would rather address the conflict of interest issue first, so it potentially is not brought up later on appeal and reversed for structural error — which under the Federal Court system requires an automatic reversal without a showing of harm.

Note: I would like to thank my fellow IU Affiliate, Hattie Harman, for bringing the structural error issue to my attention.

Judge Pohl adjourned the hearings until Thursday, April 17 and issued an Order that anyone who was approached by the FBI or any other federal government agency, concerning any defense-related matters, must disclose this to the Lead Counsel of each team, and not anyone else. Also, by Wednesday at 5 PM, the defense has to submit any proposed orders of production that they believe appropriate in the case.

If you would like more details about today’s hearing please find a copy of the transcript below.

KSM II (TRANS15April2014-AM)

Since the hearing was over before noon, some of the NGO group went and took a tour of Radio GTMO. The station’s motto is “Rockin in Fidel’s Backyard.” We visited the radio station because it also has a popular gift shop. In fact, I bought a couple of “challenge coins” here. These coins are generally collected by other service members to show what bases they have been to.

Radio GTMO

Radio GTMO

 

Radio GTMO Studio

Radio GTMO Studio

All of the NGO’s, 13 of us, met with General Mark Martins, Chief Prosecutor of the Military Commissions, for a Q&A session at 5:30 PM. General Martins was very respectful of everyone’s questions and I appreciate it that he took time out of his extremely busy schedule to sit down with us. Overall, I thought it was a productive Q&A, given the fact that the General can only talk about so much because of the nature of this case. That said, I got the impression that he answered most of the NGO’s questions in a very prosecutorial/politician sort of way — making sure to never tip his hand.

Although the hearing was cut short, I felt the rest of the day was productive. Time to wait and see what Thursday brings. Until then, it looks like Wednesday is going to include some more snorkeling!

By Jeff Meding, Military Commission Observation Project, Indiana University McKinney School of Law

Into The Guantanamo Bay Courtroom — The 1st Day of Hearings (Jeff Meding)

I woke up this morning and I was anxious for the Hearings in the 9-11 case  to begin.

To The Courtroom
All of the NGO’s walked over to the courtroom at about 8:15 AM. After proceeding through security, I sat in the gallery about 15-20 minutes before the Hearing started.

I was assigned to seat 12 and it was almost unreal, being behind the window, only yards away from 9/11 defendants.After reading the 9/11 Commission Report and other articles pertaining to the attack, it felt very strange to be sitting behind the alleged defendants of the deadliest terrorist attack in U.S history.

As I looked through the window  that separated the observers from the accused, I was able to distinctly see all 5 defendants.

  • Khalid Shaid Mohammad (KSM) is at the first table.
  • Walid bin Attash is at the second table.
  • Ramzi Binalshibh is at the third table.
  • Ammar al-Baluchi is at the fourth table.
  • Finally, Mustafa al Hawsawi is at the fifth table.

As the defendants were brought into the courtroom, each was accompanied by 4 guards (2 on each side of each defendant).

Speaking of guards, there were a lot of guards in the courtroom.

Fair Trial if Each of 5 Defendants Has 4 Guards in the Courtroom
If this case ever does go to trial,  I wonder if the defense counsel for each defendant will ask that the guards leave because it impacts their clients ability to receive a trial by an impartial jury. If there are guards surrounding the prisoners and the Commission Members (Jurors) are allowed to see this, then the defense may argue that their clients will not receive a fair trial because the Commission Members cannot be impartial when each defendant has 4 guards escorting him and at least 20-25 guards in the entire courtroom. That is an issue that may be brought up in the future, but for now I am going to focus on the matters at hand.

The Judge Enters Courtroom — The Proceedings Begin — “40 Seconds Into The Future”
Judge Pohl entered the courtroom and began the proceeding by reading each defendant his rights. All 5 defendants said they understood their rights. It is weird sitting in the gallery because what is known as “looking 40 seconds into the future” happens. According to Ammar al-Baluchi’s defense team, this is the sensation created by watching the hearing from the gallery where the live action is 40 seconds in the future relative to what is shown on the television. It definitely takes a couple of minutes to get used to. After all 5 defendants acknowledged their rights, the hearing got very interesting!

Competency of One of the Defendants
First, Judge Pohl addressed the Prosecution’s ex parte motion 152v, which related to the 909 issue of Ramzi Binalshibh’s competency. The Prosecution filed the ex parte motion of Sunday, 13 April 2014. After the Government made its request, Mr. Jay Connell, learned defense counself for Ammar al-Baluchi, objected to the ex parte hearing because he said it fell outside the narrow ex parte rules.

FBI Allegedly Creates Conflict of Interest by Interaction With Defense Team Liaison?
At this point, Mr. Harrington, learned defense counsel for Ramzi Binalshibh, noted that he filed an emergency motion to abate the proceedings on Sunday evening. This could potentially cause the proceedings to be halted for the rest of the week because it has huge implications!

In the Motion, the defense team for Binalshibh, said that their Defense Security Officer (DSO) was visited by two FBI agents on 6 April 2014 and asked to sign an agreement with them. The DSO is a civilian whose job includes assisting (more…)

13 April 2014 (GTMO Day 2 + Selected Pics)

I know it is going to sound crazy, but I went boating and snorkeling today in Guantanamo Bay! What an amazing experience. The water was so warm and it is gorgeous. Definitely a change of pace from Chicago weather. We also got to see the Cuba-USA maritime border line from the boat, which was very cool to experience.

We were out in the sun for about 5 hours, so must of us relaxed for about an hour once we got back to Camp Justice. We did another run to the NEX, to get any supplies people forgot yesterday. Afterwards, we went to dinner at the Pub, which for future IU Affiliates, it does have a good burger.

When I got back from the dinner, I went to the NGO Lounge and worked on Blog material and read over Chief Prosecutor Mark Martins Remarks at Guantanamo Bay today (13 April 2014). Also, I re-read the Competency Motions because after talking with the Defense Team yesterday, this issue is probably going to take up most of the week.

Please see below selected photos from Day 2. The internet is only dial-up speed, so it takes FOREVER to upload photos. Once I am back in the US, I will post the rest of the photos from each day.

MWR Marina. Morale, Wellness, and Recreation.

MWR Marina. Morale, Wellness, and Recreation.

 

On the boat trip, we could see Cuba. Apparently, it is the mountains in the background.

Cuba in the background.

 

A view of GTMO from the boat.

A view of GTMO from the boat.

 

A picture from Guantanamo Bay. We tied up to that buoy in the water and went snorkeling.

A picture from Guantanamo Bay. We tied up to that buoy in the water and went snorkeling.

 

Some of the crew on the other boat.

Some of the crew on the other boat.

 

An old dock where ships used to tie off.

An old dock where ships used to tie off.

 

An iguana at the marina when we got back.

An iguana at the marina when we got back. Apparently, this is only considered a “medium” sized iguana at GTMO!

 

Guantanamo’s 9/11 hearing – 12 April 2014 (GTMO DAY 1) (Jeff Meding)

I woke up on time and did not miss my flight! I woke up at 4:45 AM and a cab got me at 5:45 AM. I arrived at AAFB at 6 AM and checked in. I still can’t believe I’m going to GTMO! Speaking of which, I just saw Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, Chief Prosecutor for the MC. I think the disbelief will wear off once I’m there. I am looking forward to this trip and the lasting memories I’m sure it will create. I arrived safely at GTMO at around 2 PM EDT and the experience so far has been great! We took a ferry ride from the airport to Camp Justice. The view was incredible and it was crazy to think that Cuba was just a few miles away. Once we arrived at Camp Justice, we did a bunch of procedural duties. We got our Security Badges in order to enter the court room and toured the base real quick. We went to the Navy Exchange Commissary, also called the “NEX” in order to get some supplies for the week. After the NEX, we went to a BBQ. The Defense team for Ammar al-Baluchi had us over for a cookout and everyone was very nice. I spoke with Lt. Col. Sterling Thomas, lead counsel for Ammar al Baluchi, for awhile and he was awesome. He was a really nice guy and easy to talk to. He provided information on some of the difficulties he has had with trying to fully defend his client. Some of these issues include: atty-client privilege information, the prosecutions non-disclosure of evidence and the Govt placing “smoke detectors” in the rooms where clients and attorneys meet.

Still can’t believe I am here, it is somewhat surreal in a way.
Please see below selected photos from Day 1. The internet is only dial-up speed, so it takes FOREVER to upload photos. Once I am back in the US, I will post the rest of the photos from each day.
This was the ferry ride from the GTMO Airport to Camp Justice on the other side of the Bay.

This was the ferry ride from the GTMO Airport to Camp Justice on the other side of the Bay.

 

Camp Justice

Camp Justice

 

Camp Justice Entrance

Camp Justice Entrance

 

A picture of some of the tents at Camp Justice.

A picture of some of the tents at Camp Justice.

 

Tent A7 was my home for nearly a week.

Tent A7 was my home for nearly a week.

 

I had this portion of the tent to myself. There were 3 other individuals that shared a tent with me.

I had this portion of the tent to myself. There were 3 other individuals that shared a tent with me.

 

Full view of the inside of the tent I stayed in.

Full view of the inside of the tent I stayed in.

 

A refrigerator and microwave. Not too bad for living in a tent.

A refrigerator and microwave. Not too bad for living in a tent.

 

Entrance to the NGO Lounge.

Entrance to the NGO Lounge.

A picture of the NGO Lounge. This is where NGO's typically go to get work done.

A picture of the NGO Lounge. This is where NGO’s typically go to get work done.

 

Another view of the NGO Lounge.

Another view of the NGO Lounge.

 

Lounge

Lounge

 

NGO office area in the Lounge. This is where I set up shop to get work done while I was at GTMO.

NGO office area in the Lounge. This is where I set up shop to get work done while I was at GTMO.

Other NGO Binders in the Lounge Office.

Other NGO Binders in the Lounge Office.

IU McKinney PIHRL MCOP Briefing Book.

IU McKinney PIHRL MCOP Briefing Book.

Briefing Book View 2.

Briefing Book View 2.

 

The Briefing Book made a great addition to the NGO Binders. Other NGO's on the trip were very impressed with the Briefing Book!

The Briefing Book made a great addition to the NGO Binders. Other NGO’s on the trip were very impressed with the Briefing Book!

GTMO Naval Station sign. This is located on Sherman Road, the main road through GTMO.

GTMO Naval Station sign. This is located on Sherman Road, the main road through GTMO.

11 April 2014

I flew out of Chicago Midway at 11 AM, well my flight was delayed so more like 1130 AM. During the flight, I read a law review article by Jonathan Hafetz entitled Diminishing the Value of War Crimes Prosecutions: A View of the Guantanamo Military Commissions from the Perspective of International Criminal Law. Also, I re-read the Motion regarding the competency of Ramzi Binalshibh.

I arrived in DC around 2 PM and went straight to my hotel, which was located about 5 miles away from AAFB. I did a Skype call with Professor Edwards International Law class to watch a lecture by Mr. Rick Kammen. Mr. Kammen is learned counsel for Al-Nashiri. His lecture was very informative and he provided good detail into what to expect while I am at GTMO.

Called it an early night since I have to be at AAFB by 6:30 AM tomorrow. In order to ensure I wake up, I set 4 alarms. I set two alarms on my phone, one on the hotel alarm clock, and I scheduled a wake up call from the front desk of the hotel. If you could not tell, I am slightly paranoid I may miss my flight in the morning!

 

10 April 2014

2 more days until I leave for GTMO!

Today was a big prep day in terms of making sure I had all the necessary paperwork and supplies to bring with me. Last minute details and emails to confirm plans. Based off of all the information I read, I finished my GTMO Review and Questions document for my trip. After taking the time to make this, I feel very prepared for this trip!

I went and picked up the Briefing Book from the FedEx Office and it looks better than I had anticipated. I am really happy with the end product and proud of all the hard work Qifan and others put into making this. I am proud I get to represent the IU McKinney PIHRL MCOP and glad I get to provide the Briefing Book to the NGO Library for future IU Affiliates and NGO’s to use.

In the afternoon, I looked at the Referred Charges for the 9/11 case and read two great articles by Jennifer K. Elsea.  The articles are The Military Commissions  Act of 2009  (MCA 2009): Overview and Legal Issues and Comparison of Rights in Military Commission Trials and Trials in  Federal Criminal Court. After having some general knowledge about the MC, I would definitely suggest that people read these two articles to fill in any gaps and tie things together. Both are very informative and provide a great comparison of the MC v. the Fed. Crim. Ct. system.

Finally, I packed and since I am OCD I checked a million times to make sure I had everything!

9 April 2014

I received news from Ms. Kristin Brockett that the Briefing Book should arrive tomorrow at the FedEx Office near my apartment in Chicago!

Also, today I received an email from Mr. Ben Fenwick, Program Analyst for the OMC, which contained my Traveling Forms and last minute information. I received an Invitational Travel Order form and an APACS (Aircraft and Personnel Automated Clearance System) form. It is nice to have 100% confirmation that I am cleared for the flight to GTMO.

Some of the last minute details include being at AAFB by 6:30 AM on Saturday, April 12, what the plans are when we arrive at GTMO, and what time we are going to a BBQ. The NGO’s were invited to a BBQ by the Defense Team for Ali Abdul Aziz Ali aka Ammar al-Baluchi. I am excited to get to talk with the Defense Team and get their insights into the MC. Finally, if anyone has ever seen the movie Zero Dark Thirty, the character Ammar who is waterboarded, is allegedly Ammar al-Baluchi.

 

8 April 2014

Today was one last review for the Briefing Book. Ms. Qifan Wang and I double-checked the Table of Contents, Cover Sheet, Intro/FAQs and Inserts for Document 23 and 33. We also made sure all of the links were correct and up-to-date. After the edits, it looks like the Briefing Book should be printed off tomorrow! I look forward to seeing the finished product. Please see below a Table of Contents for the Briefing Book.

TABLE OF CONTENTS- Briefing Book

After I was done with this, I reviewed all of the documents in sections B-D of the Briefing Book. While reviewing this information, I began to create a GTMO Review and Questions file, in order to feel more prepared for the Hearings.

 

 

7 April 2014

First order of business today was to figure out if my health insurance covers me outside the US — in Cuba.

Answer: Yes it does!

Hopefully, I will not need to use my coverage in GTMO though. I emailed Mr. Fenwick, OMC point of contact, in order to find out further details about the trip. Please see below the questions and answers. Maybe this information can be helpful to future IU Affiliates or other NGO’s traveling to GTMO.

1. When we arrive in Guantanamo, are we allowed to contact family members and let them know we arrived safely? Can we call, text, or email them while we are in GTMO?

***Your cell phone won’t work at GTMO, but there is an ability to purchase calling cards to call home.  There is a phone in your tent and the lounge area for your usage.  If you sign up for internet ($150 per week) you could contact family that way OR we can get you signed up for the free base WiFi (somewhat reliable).  So, yes there will be a way to contact family, but the connectivity is somewhat limited***

2. On the trip from AAFB to Guantanamo, are we limited like a regular flight to 1 carry on and 1 checked bag?

***This would be correct, but most individuals check their luggage rather than worrying about carry-on items.  There is the 3 ounce rule as any commercial flight, so I would highly suggest you just pack everything into your checked luggage for your trip***

3. I understand business casual is appropriate during the day. However, do we need to wear a suit and tie when we attend the Hearings? Even if we don’t have to wear a suit and tie, do most NGO’s who attend wear suits & ties? Also, do men have to be cleanly shaven or are we allowed to keep a groomed beard?

***Most individuals wear kakis or other type of outfits for the courtroom gallery.  Some have worn suits, but that is totally up to you.  As it is very hot/dusty/windy down at GTMO, I would recommend against a suit.  Your shaving is totally up to your preference***

4. While at GTMO, do we need to bring towels to shower with or will towels be provided?

***A shower towel will be provided, as with sheets, etc.  If you are prone to being cold I would bring an extra blanket.  I would also suggest an extra towel if you prefer something softer or larger.  Also remember some sandals or flipflops to walk between your tent and the shower tent***

5. Finally, if I bring down a binder of material prepared by the IU McKinney PIHRL MCOP, will I be able to leave it in the GTMO library or somewhere else on base for Judge Patricia Riley who will be attending the USS Cole hearings? Also, if I leave the binder there will other NGO’s have access to it? The idea is for other NGO’s to have access to it if they wish to use it.

***You can leave the binder in the NGO lounge for future participants or individuals to use.  There is a small backroom that other NGO groups have left items.  The Government is not responsible if anything is lost or stolen though, so just something to keep in mind.***

In addition to helping Qifan Wang with the Briefing Book, I uploaded a PDF entitled “Military Detention of Suspected Terrorists in the 21st Century” to Dropbox. This was a PP presentation I gave last spring in my Military Law class. I could not have imagined that while preparing this PP, I would eventually have the opportunity to go to GTMO where the alleged 9/11 terrorists are being held. I hope this PP presentation gives IU Affiliates and other individuals a general background on who the military can detain, what legal authority governs military detention, and how long suspected terrorists can be detained.

Finally, I read over all of the “Materials prepared by the OMC” in the Briefing Book in order to have a better foundation when I arrive for the hearings.

 

 

6 April 2014

First, I have to thank Ms. Qifan Wang, J.D. candidate at IU McKinney, for all of her help today! She has been fantastic to work with on this Project! The IU McKinney PIHRL MCOP is lucky to have her on board. All I can say about today is BRIEFING BOOK! Lots of time reviewing, editing, and making overall adjustments. When I was not working on this, I spent time reading over the Charging Information for the 9/11 defendants.

5 April 2014

1 week until I leave for GTMO!

I spent a lot of time today preparing the Briefing Book. It is definitely a lot of work, but I think the final product will be very beneficial to me and future IU Affiliates. I read over the Official MC Documents in order to have a better familiarization of the law. Finally, I sent Prof. Edwards an updated Pre-Mission Draft List, which contained additional information on the 9/11 defendants.

4 April 2014

There are 19 Motions scheduled to be heard during the 4 days. Listed below is a summary of the Motions. I continued working on material for the Pre-Mission List to GTMO. I uploaded all the publicly available motions listed on the docket to DropBox, so other Affiliates traveling to Ft. Meade have easier access to this information.

Summary of Motions Scheduled

Motion Number Legal Team Pleading Brief Summary
AE152J Prosecution Motion for R.M.C. 909 Hearing The prosecution asks the Commission to establish the competency of Ramzi bin al Shibh to stand trial
AE013III Defense Motion for Appropriate Relief Defense counsel have legal objections to Commission order to sign memorandum of understanding for Protective Order AE013CCC and AE013DDD
AE 008 Defense Motion to Dismiss For Defective Referral The defense position is that the Convening Authority did not charge the defendants properly.
AE 031 Defense Motion to Dismiss for Unlawful Influence The defense position is that the President of the United States put pressure on the Convening Authority, Vice Admiral McDonald to bring forward the case against the defendants.
AE 192 Defense Motion to Disqualify The defense position is that the Legal Advisor to the Convening Authority unlawfully interfered with the professional judgment of the Chief Defense and Military Learned Counsel.
AE 196 Defense Motion to Disqualify The defense position is that the Chief of Operations for the Convening Authority unlawfully interfered with the professional judgment of the Chief Defense and Military Learned Counsel.
AE 254 Defense Emergency Motion The defense position is that JTF-GTMO has not provided sufficient attorney-
AE 052 Prosecution Government Ex Parte, In Camera Notice This prosecution motion is classified; no information is available.
AE 112 Defense Motion to Compel White House and DOJ policy on Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Program The defense seeks to compel discovery about the policies underlying the rendition, detention, and interrogation program.
AE 114 Defense Motion to Compel Information regarding Buildings in Which Defendants May Have Been Confined The defense asks the prosecution to produce evidence about any facility where the defendants were held.
AE 118 Defense Motion to Abate Proceedings Pending Compliance with Protective Order #1 The defense position is that the government has not provided sufficient guidance on handling classified information.
AE 182 Defense Motion to Possess and Resume Use of a Microsoft-Enabled Laptop Computer The defense asks that the defendants have access to standalone computers to work on their defenses.
AE 183 Defense Motion for Telephonic Access for Effective Assistance of Counsel The defense asks to be able to communicate by telephone.
AE 195 Defense Defense Motion to Compel Production of Communications Between Government and Filmmakers of Zero Dark Thirty The defense seeks information about government involvement with the movie Zero Dark Thirty.
AE 206 Defense(Mohammed) Motion to Cease Daily Intrusive Searches of Living Quarters and Person The defense wants the prison to use less intrusive means to search for physical contraband.
AE 036E Prosecution Motion to Clarify Order AE036D The prosecution asks the Judge to order that the prosecution has control over all witnesses, including remote testimony.
AE 036G Defense Motion to Compel Discovery The defense wants the Judge to compel discovery on government policy of producing witnesses.
AE 036H Defense Motion to Compel Witnesses The defense wants the Judge to compel witnesses on prosecution statements regarding costs of producing witnesses.
AE 214 Defense Motion to Compel access to Government of Saudi Arabia. The defense requests that the Military Commission compel the Secretary of Defense to facilitate communications between Mr. Hawsawi and Saudi Arabia.

                                                                          

3 April 2014

Received an email from the Defense Team of Ammar al Baluchi that contained a packet of information to help NGO’s navigate the week’s events. Read over all the material sent.

The packet included:

Hearing information pamphlet

  • Describes generally what we can expect to see in court and a chart summarizing the motions.

GTMO Glossary

  • Contains common terms used in Military Commissions- military jargon and acronyms- to help follow the arguments.

Unofficial Annotated Docket,

  • Has links to key documents for all publicly available motions listed on the Docket.