Victims and Victims’ Families

Public Denied Guantanamo Bay Hearing Broadcast at Ft. Meade, Maryland

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Observers from Indiana at Ft. Meade monitoring a Guantanamo Bay Military Commission hearing. Observers were permitted to see / hear the video / audio feed from the Guantanamo courtroom. (file photo)

Public observers at Ft. Meade, Maryland were banned today from watching satellite broadcasts of a hearing being conducted in the Guantanamo Bay courtroom, even though public observers physically at Guantanamo were permitted to view the same hearing.

Pentagon pledge of open and transparent hearings

For many years U.S. Military Commissions have been held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to try individuals charged with war crimes. The Pentagon has stated that these criminal proceedings should be open and transparent, and that to facilitate transparency the Pentagon permits a small number of Observers to travel to Guantanamo to monitor hearings. Observers typically represent human rights or advocacy groups, or academic programs. Observers serve as eyes and ears for the general public, who do not have the opportunity to travel to Guantanamo Bay to witness hearings.

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The Guantanamo Bay Military Commission Courtroom, viewed from the spectator gallery. (file photo)

Observers sit in an enclosed spectator gallery in the rear of the Guantanamo courtroom, separated from the lawyers, prosecutors and defendants by a double-paned glass. Observers can see what is going on in the courtroom, and hear what is said.

The Pentagon also permits Observers to view Guantanamo proceedings by close-circuit television (CCTV) in a secure facility at Ft. Meade, Maryland. Observers at Ft. Meade can see what the cameras are pointing at in the Guantanamo courtroom, and hear what he Observers at Guantanamo hear.

Today, in what appears to be the first time, Observers were permitted to be present in the Guantanamo courtroom spectator gallery and monitor proceedings live, but Observers were not permitted to view those same proceedings by CCTV at Ft. Meade.

Thus, NGOs in the U.S. were effectively banned from monitoring today’s proceeding.

Why the ban?

It is unclear why Observers in the U.S. were banned from monitoring the hearings by CCTV at Ft. Meade today, while Observers could view the hearings live at Guantanamo.

Lawyers for the prosecution and defense apparently argued yesterday and over the weekend about the Ft. Meade ban. But, at least some of those arguments were held behind closed doors, with no Observer being permitted to hear.  Though motion papers were filed related to the ban, those documents are subject to a security review and are not releasable to the public until after 14 days, and may not be released even then.

There are 5 Observers at Guantanamo this week, and they were able to hear some arguments about the Ft. Meade ban. Indeed, they were in the courtroom able to witness today’s hearings – the same hearings from which the Fort Meade Observers were banned.

Again, it is unclear what the convincing argument is that Observers can watch today’s proceedings live in the Guantanamo courtroom, but other Observers cannot watch today’s proceedings by CCTV at Ft. Meade.

My Ft. Meade experiences today

I arrived at Ft. Meade well before the scheduled start time of today’s hearing. The staff member who oversees the Ft. Meade viewing room was there, the lights were on in the room, and the miniature lockers were in place in the rear of the viewing room so Observers could store their cell phones which can’t be used during the CCTV broadcasts.

The minutes ticked away, and soon I learned that an official message had been received that the hearings would not be broadcast to Ft. Meade today, and that was by order.

Nevertheless, I waited to see if  the hearing would open, with an announcement of closure made, before the transmission stopped.

Also, was there still a chance that the hearing would be transmitted in full? Just as an order is made, an order can be reversed.

In today’s case, the initial order regarding this week’s hearings was that Observers could monitor at Guantanamo Bay and at Ft. Meade. A subsequent order reversed the portion of the former order that permitted transmission to Ft. Meade. That reversal prohibited the transmission to Ft. Meade. That reversal could very well have been, and could still be, reversed, and transmission could have occurred today. It appears that it would only take a flip of a switch to begin transmitting from Guantanamo to Ft. Meade, and that such transmissions could be started at any point.

I continued to wait. The large video screen in front of the viewing room stayed dark and blank.

The person at Ft. Meade who oversees the technical side of the transmission sits in a different room of the same building where the viewing room is. I checked with that person, and was informed that there was no sign that the transmission would commence.

I left about 90 minutes into the hearing, with the screen still dark and blank, witnessing none of today’s testimony.

Options?

Yesterday I discussed in a blog post what my options were for being able to observe today’s hearings, particularly since I (and other Observers) chose not to travel to Guantanamo Bay this week in part because we were initially permitted to observe at Ft. Meade. We were informed 4 days ago (Friday) that NGOs would be banned from viewing the hearings at Ft. Meade. By then it was too late to catch the Sunday flight to Guantanamo Bay to view the hearings in person, sitting in the spectator gallery, along with the 5 Observers who are there. There are 14 seats reserved for Observers in the Guantanamo courtroom, so they had room for 9 more Observers this week.

Had I known last week what I know today, I definitely would have requested travel to Guantanamo Bay for this week’s hearings.

I am scheduled to deliver in Australia early next week, and I could have delivered (and still could deliver) that lecture by video rather than in person, freeing me to be at Guantanamo Bay for this entire week. Indeed, if I could go to Guantanamo tonight or tomorrow for the remainder of this week’s hearings that are not being transmitted to Ft. Meade, I would do so and deliver the Australia lecture by video.

Perhaps the Military Commission will permit Observers who were banned from viewing this week’s proceeding at Ft. Meade to view the videotape? The videotape cannot be classified, because if it were, then the 5 Observers at Guantanamo this week would not have been permitted to be in the courtroom for the hearing.

If the reason for the Ft. Meade ban was security associated with transmitting it stateside – maybe the possibility of interception / hacking – then I and other interested Observers could watch the videotape in a secure room at the Pentagon, or in a secure facility when we are next at Guantanamo Bay – and even possibly watch the video in the courtroom itself.

Also, if any victims and family members of victims (VFMs) are interested in watching the video, maybe they will be permitted to do so as well. Several FVMs were present in the Guantanamo courtroom for today’s hearings, but VFMs were denied the opportunity to observe today’s hearing at Ft. Meade, just as Observers were denied the opportunity to observe. Indeed, any member of the general public, aside from Observers, were similarly denied the opportunity to observe at Ft. Meade, though members of the general public are entitled to observe at Ft. Meade, as are Observers, VFMs, and media.

George Edwards

 

Are you going to Guantanamo? New Manual Excerpts for NGO Observers & Others

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Click this link for the full Manual — over 500 pages. Below you can download the Manual Excerpts!

If you’re going to Guantanamo Bay in January 2017, you might be interested in our new Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual: Excerpts that offers insights into:

  • what the right to a fair trial is and how a fair trial should look
  • how to assess whether a fair trial is being afforded to all Guantanamo stakeholders
  • roles & responsibilities of independent Observers sent to monitor Guantanamo hearings
  • background info on Guantanamo the military commissions
  • a schematic of the courtroom (so you can know who is who)
  • and a 76 page “Know Before You Go To Guantanamo” insert that will tell you what to expect on your flight to Cuba, the ferry ride across Guantanamo Bay from the landing strip to your Quonset Hut accommodations, base security, food (which can be quite good!), beach, boating, and of course the courtroom, the hearings, and briefings by the prosecution and defense.

In the past, the Gitmo Observer (of Indiana University McKinney School of Law) distributed Manual Excerpts to Observers after we arrived at Andrews Air Force on the morning of our flight to Cuba (or distributed at Ft. Meade, Maryland, for Observers monitoring live by secure video-link from Cuba). Observers said they wish they had had it earlier.

So, we started to e-mail the Manual Excerpts to Observers as soon as we were sent e-mail addresses of Observers scheduled to travel, and we would receive those e-mails 3 – 6 days before the scheduled departure. Observers said that they wish they had it even earlier than that, that 3 – 6 days in advance wasn’t enough time.

So now we are posting the Manual Excerpts on this site, for access by anyone interested, whether or note traveling to Guantanamo Bay (or Ft. Meade or elsewhere), but especially for those traveling to Guantanamo Bay to monitor 3 weeks of January 2017 hearings. Ideally, about 40 independent observers would travel to Gitmo this month, to fill all the slots allocated to observers.

The Defense Department has stated that it favors strong and robust transparency. Having full complements of Observers for each hearing week would help promote transparency, human rights, and the rule of law for all military commission stakeholders (with stakeholders including the defense, the prosecution, victims and their families, witnesses, the media, observers, observer escorts / minders, the public, the U.S. soldiers and others who operate the detention facilities, the military commission court staff, and others).

Here are the Excerpts! Please let us know if you have any suggestions for improving our Excerpts, our full Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual (over 500 pages in 2 volumes!) and our Know Before You Go To Guantanamo Guide (76 pages). Send to GitmoObserver@yahoo.com

30 May 2016 Hearing in 9/11 case — Monday at Camp Justice, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Leontiy Korolev at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on Memorial Day, 30 May 2016

Leontiy Korolev at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on Memorial Day, 30 May 2016

On Monday, 30 May 2016, the U.S. Military Commission held the first day of this week’s pre-trial hearings in the case against the 5 alleged masterminds of the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. I was sitting in the Guantanamo Bay courtroom during today’s hearings, which were fascinating.

This post will share about the substance of today’s hearings. Near the end of this post I will share some of my personal observations and opinions about the proceedings and process.

May 30 2016 9/11 Hearing

Yes, it is Memorial Day, but the Judge made it a while ago clear that today’s hearings would take place.

The hearings started with a discussion of the schedule of motions to be argued this week.  The following is a list of some of the motions that will be argued, in the order they will be argued, at least as of the end of Monday’s public hearing. Each motion is assigned an “AE number”.

AE 380:   Whether or not Walid bin ‘Attash can remove his counsel.

AE 161: Defendants motion for release of unredacted copies of unclassified information.

AE 400: Defense motion for the release of full transcript of the open hearing which government redacted after the fact.

AE 018W: Defense motion to correct problems with the legal mail regime.

AE 018Y: Prosecution motion to block communications between defendants and other except through JTF-GTMO Protocol.

AE 152: bin al Shibh motion for Contempt of the Government for not stopping the “harassing noises and vibrations”.

AE 422: Prosecution motion to depose victim’s family members during October 2016 hearing.

 

Witnesses

As of now both the defense and prosecution will present witnesses for the 152 motion.  The defense will present two current detainees, one on Thursday morning, and one on Thursday evening.

I have no doubt that both detainees will present captivating testimony, but the potential presence of one of the detainees is is particularly noteworthy.

Abu Zubaydah

Abu Zubaydah

Abu Zubaydah has not been seen since his 2002 capture by the CIAhttp://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article80052562.html

The Prosecution will present a former Camp commander on Friday morning.

 

Late start to hearings

There was a bit of a late start to the hearings today, in part because there were new guards assigned to secure the proceedings.  This fact was brought up several times during the hearings today, most notably after the lunch break when counsel for Khalid Shaik Mohammad (“KSM”) stated that the guards would turn down the A/C in KSM’s holding cell.  [Side note, I was able to go into one of the holding cells as part of the tour of Camp Justice on Sunday (he was not there).]  Bin ‘Attash actually jumped into the conversation twice expressing his displeasure with the situation.  This lead to a “that’s enough Mr. bin ‘Attash”, from Judge Pohl.

A Brief Overview of Some of the Hearings on the Motions

AE 380: bin ‘Attash audibly confirmed that he would like to remove his counsel and later followed up by saying that in 2013 he was able to remove an assistant D.A.G. from his team.  He argued that he should be able to remove the current assistant attorney, Mr. Schwartz as well.  The issue is whether or not the defendant can remove non-statutorily required counsel.  The Judge gave defense 2 weeks to file a brief showing why such counsel cannot be removed from the defense team up request from bin ‘Attash.

AE 161: There are laws that allow the government to redact certain information from disclosure.  The defense argues that the prosecution is overstepping its bounds because information is being withheld improperly and the redacted information makes it impossible for the defense to use some of the documents they receive.  For example, in one discovery response the prosecution redacted administrative information from the provided documents, which made difficult to match up the documents with their respective attachments.

AE 400: This was a continuation of oral arguments on a motion that I heard argued when I travelled to Ft. Meade in February, 2016.  The controversy revolves around an open hearing held on 30 October 2015.  After the 30 October 2016 hearing, a redacted transcript was released.  The Defense and media companies filed a motion to release the entire unredacted transcript.  I published an earlier blog on the motion on 22 February 2016. I found it interesting that this motion may be one of the few times when news outlets such as Fox, MSNBC, and New York Times are all on the same side of an issue.  In today’s hearing the parties argued weather or not the discussion of the redacted information can be had in an open session.  The defense argued that it could, the prosecution argued the opposite.  The Judge stated they will meet in a closed session (505 hearing) to determine if the substantive hearing (806 hearing) can be held in open session.

David Nevin and KSM

David Nevin and KSM

David Nevin, Learned Counsel for KSM, requested that KSM be present at both, the hearing to determine if there should be a closed hearing, and at the closed hearing if one is held.  The Judge ruled that KSM cannot be present at the 505 hearing, but withheld a ruling regarding the 806.  He later denied the request for KSM to be present at the 806 hearing as well.

AE 428: The defense filed a motion for a continuance because various members of the different defense teams have not received proper clearance from the government to view certain evidence.   The prosecution argued that a continuance is not necessary because some of the necessary clearance forms were not filed properly.  The Judge did not grant a continuance but did bring up a point worth discussing – judicial economy.  If clearance is given after many issues have been litigated to conclusion, motions to reconsider will be filed for each such issue since the granted clearance would create new evidence.  New evidence bolsters the case for reconsideration of a previously litigated issue.

Backs of tents where NGOs live at Camp Justice.

Tents in Camp Justice where NGOs live at Guantanamo Bay. The Defense had ordered that its lawyers and staff not live at Camp Justice due to concerns about possible carcinogens.  The order was lifted prior to this week’s hearings.

AE 426: This motion dealt with the habitability of facilities at Guantanamo Bay.  Specifically, this motion dealt with the presence of toxins at Camp Justice, which happens to be the place where I will be living for for the next week.  Here is a Link to an article discussing various carcinogens found in the soil at Camp Justice as well as an Order forbidding defense staff from sleeping at Camp Justice.

AE 018W and AE 018Y: The hearings on these motions dealt with the transmission of communications by defendants to third parties through the defendants’ counsel.  Defense argued that it should be able to transmit any unclassified documents to third parties, or alternatively there should be a specific process they can follow to determine what communications can be cleared for release.

Mustafa al-Hasawi, defendant # 5 in the 9/11 case

Mustafa al-Hasawi, defendant # 5 in the 9/11 case

However, Counsel for Hawsawi (defendant # 5 in the 9/11 case) made it clear Hawsawi would not agree to any such process, they would especially not agree to any such process unless the process was transparent and those involved in any review were identified. Counsel for Hawsawi argued that the government is not releasing certain communications because it does not like the message, not because the communications are a threat to national security.  The AE 018 motions dealt with a handful of communications that were provided to third parties including a defendant’s family and the White House.

AE 183: Defense argued that defendants should be able to call their attorney from Camp Justice whenever necessary, and vice versa.  Currently there is no efficient way for the defense counsel to communicate with their client without being in the same location.  Prosecution argued that there is no way to establish a secure connection between the detainees and their counsel. Some research into the current logistics, including any security hurdles, of the communication between defendant and counsel both in person and from the U.S. would likely lead to interesting findings.

My Personal Observations

There just is not enough time to process and report in a meaningful way my experience so soon after the end of the first day’s hearings. I feel very grateful to finally be here and have the opportunity to observe these hearings and interact with the other people here.

All five defendants were present on the first day of hearings.  KSM wore his cameo jacket as a statement to show that he is a combatant.  There does not seem to be a simple explanation here for anything, while KSM’s attire at first seems to be just a statement in support of the actions he has allegedly committed, there are deeper issues at play.  For example, since KSM is a combatant, he, based on precedent, should be able to wear his uniform in a military trial.  Denying his request to do so, may impinge on his right to a fair trial. This article briefly touches on the KSM’s attire choice.  I also noticed that Hawsawi sat on his pillow, presumably to minimize discomfort caused by events occurring during his detention.

Our NGO group was able to return from lunch in time to catch the end of the defendants’ and one defense counsel’s prayer session.  During the prayer, each defendant had two guards standing back to back.  One in the direction of the defendant, and another facing the opposite way.  My first thought was that the guards were there to protect everyone from the defendants.  I quickly realized how insane that thought was.  Given the circumstances, the detainees are very powerless.  The main reason for the guards, in my mind, is to protect the detainees.

Unrelated Personal Observation

We have had some issues with connectivity which partly explains the reason for not posting more about my travel and arrival.  There are 8 ethernet jacks in the NGO lounge for NGO observers to use to hook up to the internet.  Only two of them worked over the weekend, and even those two are still very slow.  There are many rights and interests that come into play with what may seem like an “inconvenience”.  For example, NGOs have an interest to report the ongoings at Guantanamo Bay to the outside world.  The public has an interest to know the ongoings at Guantanamo Bay.  The defendants have a right to a public trial. Both the Government and the prosecution have an interest in allowing the public to be aware of the ongoings at Guantanamo Bay.  All of these rights and interests are effected by a slow and inconsistent internet connection.  Additional unrelated point — there is an active bee hive a few feet away from the entry to the NGO Lounge.  The NGO Lounge is the only place where internet connection is available to NGO Observers at Camp Justice.  Other than the internet, the experience here has been excellent.  Everyone we have encountered has been pleasant including our escort, drivers, members of the media, and the attorneys for both sides.

Many of the ideas above are based on my memory and understanding of the 30 May 2016 hearing and related motions and transcripts. The foregoing is my opinion in my own personal capacity, and my blog posts and other comments are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Indiana University McKinney School of Law or anyone else, for that matter.

Leontiy Korolev, J.D., Indiana University McKinney School of Law

Participant, Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP), Program in International Human Rights Law (PIHRL), Indiana University McKinney School of Law

 

The Club No One Wants to Join

At the end of each week of the 9/11 hearings, there are a series of concluding media briefings at which the defense teams, the prosecution, and the families of the 9/11 victims speak to the members of the press who are present in Guantanamo Bay. This week the members of the media included representatives from news outlets, including among others, Associated Press, BreitBart News,  BuzzFeed, and Law DragonCarol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald was present as well and is the only reporter that has attended all of the Military Commission hearings. The NGO Observers are not allowed to attend these press briefings but are allowed to view them via a live stream in the NGO Office Lounge.

After Walter RuizJames Connell III, and David Nevin, defense attorneys, and Chief Prosecutor Brigadier General Mark Martins spoke, four of the Victims’ Family Members chose to speak to the media. It was apparent from their statements that each is on an individual journey.

Phyllis Rodriguez spoke first. Her 31-year-old son Greg died in the attacks on the World Trade Center. She started by saying she was a 9/11 victim’s family member and as such she was a member of a “club no one wants to join.” Phyllis then went on to say that she had always opposed the death penalty, but that her conviction had not been tested before 9/11.

Four days after the 9/11 attacks she and her husband Orlando Rodriguez wrote an open letter, “Not In Our Son’s Name,”calling on President Bush not to resort to a military retaliation against Afghanistan. The print version is here. As a result of the letter circulating on the internet along with several others by victims’ family members calling for non-violent solutions, they met others who held similar beliefs. From these connections, the non-profit September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows was formed on February 14, 2002.

The organization’s mission is stated on its website as follows: “an organization founded by family members of those killed on September 11th who have united to turn our grief into action for peace. By developing and advocating nonviolent options and actions in the pursuit of justice, we hope to break the cycles of violence engendered by war and terrorism. Acknowledging our common experience with all people affected by violence throughout the world, we work to create a safer and more peaceful world for everyone.” (Peaceful Tomorrows website). The organization has received numerous awards, including a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2004.

In 2015 film maker Gayla Jamison produced and directed a documentary about the ongoing reconcilation work of Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez. The film is entitled In Our Son’s Name.

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Phyllis Rodriguez and her daughter Julia. (Guantanamo Bay Ferry)

The press briefings are recorded and the video posted on the Military Commission site for public viewing. The December 11, 2015 briefing will be posted shortly.  The words and stories of all the Victims’ Family Members are powerful reminders of the importance of making sure that the defendants are afforded fair and just proceedings by the Military Commission.
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Sunrise at Guantanamo Bay, awaiting ferry to the base airport.

By: Catherine A. Lemmer, 9/11 Hearings, Guantanamo Bay, 11 December 2015.

My flight to Guantanamo Bay – by Greg Loyd

On my way to Guantanamo Bay: a quick meeting with George Edwards

I’m on the left, with Professor George Edwards who founded the Military Commission Observation Project at Indiana. This photo was taken in Washington, DC the day before my departure for Guantanamo.

I’m set this morning to go to Guantanamo Bay to monitor Military Commission hearings. On my plane, which leaves from Andrews Air Force Base, will be the judge, prosecution and defense lawyers, victims’ families, press, court reporters and interpreters, and other hearing observers. For 10 days we will be involved in pre-trial hearing in a case against alleged war criminal al-Hadi al-Iraqi, an alleged high-ranking al Qaeda member.

I appreciate the opportunity to represent the Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP) of the Indiana University McKinney School of Law.

 My Background

I graduated from Indiana’s law school over a decade ago, and I have worked as both a defense attorney and a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney. I have worked with many categories of individuals emotionally vested in cases – criminal defendants scared for their future due to charges against them, detectives who sink their nights and days investigating a case, family members who grieve for a loved one, and fellow attorneys who spend sleepless nights worrying upcoming hearings. I hope this balanced lense will aid me in better understanding each Guantanamo Bay stakeholder’s point of view and lead to reporting that readers find helpful.

 My Role

As an Observer, I will watch, listen, and ask questions about the rights of stakeholders in the al-Hadi al-Iraqi case. Obviously, one such stakeholder is the defendant who has significant rights and interests in the matter. Yet, so too do the families of victims. The press. NGO’s. Yes, even the prosecution. When evaluating the military commissions, it is important to consider not just the rights of any one stakeholder, regardless of who or what this stakeholder is, but rather, the analysis must be global in nature. Given that much has been written about the defendant’s rights, I will try to pay close attention to another stakeholder — the rights of the Guantanamo Bay prosecution — in an effort to contribute to a full discussion.

A helpful starting point is to ensure an understanding of the charges filed against a defendant.

Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi

Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi

What are “Charges”?

Charges are the formal method that the government uses to accuse an individual (the defendant) with having committed a crime. The charges are not evidence and the filing of a charge does not mean that the defendant is guilty. Rather, it is the Government’s responsibility to prove at trial that the defendant is guilty. The Government filed fives charges against Hadi al-Iraqi.

Charges Against Hadi al Iraqi

Here is a brief explanation of the charges filed against the defendant.

  1. Denying Quarter

In short, the Government alleges that Hadi al Iraqi ordered his combat forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan that when they engaged in combat, they were to take no prisoners, even if the opposing forces attempted to surrender.

  1. Attacking Protected Property

Here, the Government alleges that the defendant attacked a military medical helicopter as it attempted to evacuate a U.S. military member from a battlefield and that the defendant knew the helicopter was a medical helicopter.

  1. Using Treachery or Perfidy

The Government asserts that the defendant detonated explosives in a vehicles that killed and injured German, Canadian, British, and Estonian military personnel.

  1. Attempted Use of Treachery or Perfidy

Hadi al-Iraqi is charged in this count with attempting to detonate explosives in a vehicle to kill or injure U.S. military members.

  1. Conspiracy

The Government contends that the defendant entered into an agreement with Usama bin Laden and others to commit terrorism, denying quarter, and murder (among other acts), and that he took at least one step to accomplish the purpose of the agreement.

Conclusion

I’m looking forward to monitoring the upcoming hearings. In applying my experiences, I hope to share a thoughtful analysis regarding my observations at Guantanamo Bay that contributes to the exploration of the rights of all stakeholders.

By Greg Loyd

USS Cole Case Day 1 Wrap Up: Guantanamo Bay

From the ferry crossing Guantanamo Bay, the GTMO airport where we arrived in the background.

View from the ferry crossing Guantanamo Bay, the GTMO airport where we arrived in the background.

Touch Down at GTMO

The first day we arrived at Guantanamo Bay was sobering. This side of the island is beautiful, and everyone at the Base who met us is very friendly. We arrived, went through security and got on vans to head to the Ferry. It is a short ferry ride to Camp Justice, and we had interesting conversations with other observers and different people going to Guantanamo for different purposes unrelated to the pretrial hearings. Our luggage was waiting for us when we arrived. We have all been set up in two tents; one for the men and one for women.

On Sunday, we went for dinner at an Irish restaurant. The food was everything but Irish, but I cannot judge seeing as I ordered tilapia! I found it interesting that we could not all sit together as we had not made a reservation 24 hours in advance. Yesterday (Monday, the 2nd) we switched things u and went next door the Irish place, the Windjammer, which has the exact same menu as the Irish place. Sigh.

Guantanamo Bay Courtroom from the viewing gallery, behind  the thick, bulletproof glass.

Guantanamo Bay Courtroom from the viewing gallery, behind the thick, bulletproof glass. (Photo credit: CBS News. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Courtroom Tour

Day 1 at Gitmo started with a tour of the Court. We were not able to go inside the actual courtroom as they had already prepared it for the session. We sat in the gallery, which is behind glass windows that have TV monitors transmitting with a 40-second delay to allow for time to censure any classified information that may be said in court.

We talked about the trial process in Military Commissions, Convening authorities and their roles, especially in light of the Unlawful Influence motion that was set to be ruled on., how juries and selected,  and went over some court rules and structure.

Court Session Begins – Victims & Family Join

We reconvened at the court at 10:30 a.m. This time we were joined by Victims and Family who sat on the opposite end of the room. In the room, we had our NGO escorts as well as some military personnel to escort us if we needed to leave the room, or if we needed anything else. One of them was actually from Indiana. Always great to meet “fellow Hoosiers”. Our escorts have been wonderful the entire time, and drive us anywhere we wish to go, including to the court a few yards away sometimes.

We were given assigned seats even though the gallery was half-empty.

Courtroom sketch of al Nashiri by artist Janet Hamlin. Today in court he was wearing a similar white jumpsuit.

File courtroom sketch of al Nashiri by artist Janet Hamlin. Today in court he was wearing a similar white jumpsuit.

From where I was in the back row, I did not see the bring al Nashiri in, but I did see him during our “comfort break”. He was in a white jumpsuit and was chatting with his team, looking very calm. At 50 years old, he certainly looks a lot younger in my opinion

Judge’s Ruling on Unlawful Influence by Marine Major General Vaughn Ary (retired)

First order of business, Judge Spath delivered his ruling on the Unlawful Influence Motion (AE 332, Defense Motion to Dismiss for Unlawful Influence and Denial of Due Process for Failure to Provide an Independent Judiciary). The Guantanamo Fair Trial Manual addresses the relevant laws on Unlawful Influence on page 63.

The judge ruled that there was an appearance of Unlawful Influence by retired Marine Major General Vaughn Ary, the Convening Authority (CA) but that because he found Ary did not act in bad faith he did not allow the defense remedies of dismissing the case (See pg. 5896 Unofficial Unauthenticated Transcript, al Nashiri, A March 2015). He further ordered that the CA and his legal advisors be disqualified from taking any further action and making any further recommendations in the case. He called for the appointment of a new CA.

There will be no further evidentiary hearings this week, and several people have mentioned that we may wrap up the sessions as early as today (Tuesday).

The judge mentioned that a ruling on a Motion 205 would be out soon, but that he had denied 205 BB (a motion to reargue) and 205 EE (a motion to supplement additional pleadings). I later learned during a briefing with General Martins that these were defense motions to seal some of al Nashiri’s medical records for privacy reasons.

More Motions

At the 1300hrs (1:00 p.m.) session, the court heard spirited arguments from both the defense and prosecution on the following motions:

  • AE 331 A – Government Motion To Amend the Docketing Order (February 2015 Hearing) To Allow The Government To Determine The Manner In Which It Presents Its Evidence Relating To The Admissibility Of Government-Noticed Hearsay And Evidence Identified In AE 207;
  • AE 319J – Defense Motion to Continue Further Hearings on the Government’s Motion to Admit Hearsay Until the Court of Military Commissions Review Renders a Final Judgment on Appeal;
  • AE 256D, Defense Motion to Strike AE 256C: Government Notice of Bill of Particulars (Defining Civilian Population as Used in Aggravating Factor #5);
  • AE 257D, Defense Motion to Strike AE 257C: Government Notice of Bill of Particulars (Defining Civilian Population as Used in Aggravating Factor #5).

Meeting with Chief Prosecutor General Martins

The session ended at about 3:30 p.m. to the public, and continued to discuss a classified Motion 505 in chambers. We met about an hour (for about an hour) later with Army Brig. General Mark Martins, the Chief Prosecutor in the Office of Military Commissions.

We went over some of the hearsay rules under the Military Commissions Act relating to some of the motions discussed in the afternoon session, and answered our questions relating not just to the USS Cole.

Meeting Carol Rosenberg

Before this meeting however, I bumped into Ms. Carol Rosenberg, a notable reporter from the Miami Herald who is known as the Dean of the GTMO Press Corps and has been reporting on Guantanamo since 2002. She said she had read my tweet, and that she knew how to adjust the air conditioning in the tents! Who knew! She later came back and showed us how to do just that. We made very minimal adjustments so as not to let any rodents in or get the tent moist and moldy. Thanks to that, night 2 was a sleeping-bag-only affair.

Tuesday’s Court Schedule

Today (Tuesday) the court session begins at 9:00 am.

Avril Rua Pitt, Camp Justice, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Guantanamo NGO Observers from IU McKinney Law School Featured in Indiana Lawyer

Military tribunals for some accused of terrorist attacks on the United States are held at Camp Justice at Guantanamo Bay. (Photo by Catherine Lemmer, IU McKinney School of Law)

Military tribunals for some accused of terrorist attacks on the United States are held at Camp Justice at Guantanamo Bay. (Photo by Catherine Lemmer, IU McKinney School of Law)

The Indiana Lawyer published the following article by Marilyn Odendahl on 25 February 2015. Text and photos are in the original article.

IU McKinney Gitmo Observers Illuminate Murky Proceedings in Gitmo Trials

by. Marilyn Odendahl (25 February 2015)

      The U.S. Military Commission Observation Project overseen by Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law is continuing to send individuals to watch and report on the accused terrorists’ trials being held at Guantanamo Bay. Blog posts and articles from the observers chronicle the glacial pace of the proceedings, the unexpected courtroom twists and the nagging constitutional questions.

Professor George Edwards

Professor George Edwards

The project regularly sends faculty, students and alumni to either Guantanamo Bay or Fort Meade in Maryland to observe the tribunals. Professor George Edwards, founder and director of the project, explained the work of the observers is not to address the political issues or comment on the substance of the military commissions.

“We’re interested in seeking to assess whether the stakeholders are receiving the rights and interests that are afforded to them,” Edwards said. “(Those rights) include the right to a fair hearing, the right to an independent tribunal, the right to trial without undue delay.”

He pointed out the observers also are looking at the stakes that the victims of the terrorists attacks and their families have in the proceedings. What about their rights to have access to the trials, to make statements, to confront and to have closure?

Professor Catherine Lemmer

Professor Catherine Lemmer

IU McKinney librarian Catherine Lemmer, who Edwards described as instrumental in helping to build the observation program, heard some victims’ voices when she traveled to Guantanamo Bay for the hearings of the alleged co-conspirators of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

One man said he was attending the proceedings to remind the judge and attorneys that planes had flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. A mother of a fallen firefighter said she was struggling to hang on to her opposition to the death penalty, but she believed the trials had to be fair because the United States would be judged by how it handles the detainees.

The project drew praise from panelists who participated in a recent forum at the law school examining the tribunals. Hosted by the Indiana International & Comparative Law Review, the symposium brought together legal scholars from IU McKinney and around the country to discuss whether the end is coming for Guantanamo Bay or if the practice of international criminal law has reached a turning point.

An IU McKinney symposium examined trials at Guantanamo Bay. Panelists included (from left): Richard Kammen, Kammen & Moudy; Shahram Dana, The John Marshall Law School; George Edwards, IU McKinney; and Paul Babcock, editor-in-chief of the Indiana International & Comparative Law Review. Chris Jenks of Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law participated via video link. (Photo by Dave Jaynes, courtesy of IU McKinney Law)

An IU McKinney symposium examined trials at Guantanamo Bay. Panelists included (from left): Richard Kammen, Kammen & Moudy; Shahram Dana, The John Marshall Law School; George Edwards, IU McKinney; and Paul Babcock, editor-in-chief of the Indiana International & Comparative Law Review. Chris Jenks of Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law participated via video link. (Photo by Dave Jaynes, courtesy of IU McKinney Law)

Two participants – Shahram Dana, associate professor at The John Marshall Law School and Chris Jenks, assistant professor at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law – on the second panel discussion both noted IU McKinney’s effort in documenting the proceedings at Guantanamo Bay is shining a light on America’s response to terrorism and will be an invaluable resource for history.

Lemmer advocates for the proceedings to be shown on C-SPAN. The American public should see for themselves, she said, so they form their own opinions. By seeing what is happening in that courtroom, she said it is easy to realize how things could go wrong.

“The role of the attorneys, our role (as citizens) is to hold fast to the Constitution when really bad things happen and everybody wants to step over it,” Lemmer said. “Ultimately, the price we pay for not doing it right is incredible. This is our Constitution and it is getting overwhelmed, which should not happen.”

Lemmer took her first trip to Guantanamo Bay in December 2014. However, the proceedings were derailed by the ongoing revelations that the Federal Bureau of Investigation may have infiltrated the defense teams. The FBI is accused of listening to defense attorneys’ meetings with their clients and reviewing their correspondence as well as attempting to turn legal team members into informants.

When she returned in early February 2015, the FBI conflict-of-interest issue was still being argued. Then unexpectedly, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, one of the defendants in the courtroom, said he recognized his interpreter as someone he encountered during the period he was held at one of the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret prisons. Another defendant told his attorney he also remembered the interpreter from the black site.

“It became very surreal,” she said.

To Indianapolis defense attorney Richard Kammen, the confusion and conundrums that swirl around Guantanamo Bay could be resolved by moving the proceedings to federal court. Kammen, lead counsel for USS Cole bombing suspect Abd al-Rahmin al-Nashiri, pointed to the hearings of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an example that U.S. courts can handle high-profile terrorism cases.

“There’re so many more moving parts down there than there would be in federal court, so things just get more messed up,” he said.

Currently, Kammen and his defense team are tangling with the federal government to release the details of the treatment of al-Nashiri while he was kept in a black site. The release of the CIA Torture Report publicly confirmed that the defendant had been physically, psychologically and sexually tortured, but Kammen said the defense still needs details of what was done and when.

Professor Tom Wilson

Professor Tom Wilson

IU McKinney professor Lloyd “Tom” Wilson is scheduled to observe the al-Nashiri proceedings during his first trip to Guantanamo Bay. The task of watching and relaying what is happening will be difficult, he said, because he will be seeing just a snapshot of a long, complex and secretive process.

Wilson was careful in his preparation for the trip, not wanting to form any preconceived ideas or prejudices before he arrived in the courtroom. He is going out of a sense of civic duty and to understand the situation better than he does now.

Still, the proceedings are not easy to comprehend and continue to spark debate many miles away from the detention camp.

As part of his remarks during the IU McKinney symposium, Kammen described Guantanamo Bay as a “law-free zone.”

Co-panelist Jenks countered that characterization, arguing traditional rules governing the treatment of prisoners of war have been upended by terrorism. In previous conflicts, nation states battled each other but now the United States is fighting against groups that are unconnected with any organized government or country. Even so, he continued, the detainees at Guantanamo Bay have a right to counsel and are being given a trial.

Kammen responded that even if his client is acquitted, he will not be released.

“That,” Kammen said, “is a law-free zone.”

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The original Indiana Lawyer article can be found here:  http://www.theindianalawyer.com/iu-mckinney-gitmo-observers-illuminate-murky-proceedings-in-gitmo-trials/PARAMS/article/36436