9/11

Traveling to Guantanamo Bay to Monitor the Case Against the Alleged Masterminds of the 9/11 Attacks

!IJCHR Logo and Matt Kubal

Matthew Kubal as a Program in International Human Rights Law Intern at the Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights in June of 2007

I am a graduate of the Indiana University McKinney School of Law, and have a long history of working with the school’s Program in International Human Rights Law both while I was a student and after I graduated. I am honored that now, as an attorney in Indianapolis, the Program nominated me to monitor the U.S. Military Commission hearings at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The pentagon confirmed my nomination to travel to Guantanamo Bay from 22 – 26 February 2016 to monitor the case against 5 alleged masterminds of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (commonly known as the “9/11 case”).

Another graduate of the McKinney law school, Mr. Paul Schilling, is at Guantanamo Bay this week monitoring this same case. Professor George Edwards, who founded the Program in International Human Rights Law, is traveling to Ft. Meade, Maryland this week and next week to monitor the Guantanamo Bay hearings that are being streamed by secure video-link into the Ft. Meade military base. You can read their blog posts here at http://www.GitmoObserver.com.

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Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, one of the 5 defendents in the 9/11 case

Will the hearings go forward next week?

This is my fourth nomination to travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to monitor Military Commissions live. In 2015, I was nominated on three occasions: twice to observe hearings in the 9/11 case and once to observe hearings in the case against al-Nashiri, who is charged with masterminding the attack on the U.S.S. Cole off the coast of Yemen in 2000. All of these hearing sessions were cancelled prior to my departure. I am well aware of the possibility that this coming week’s 9/11 hearings might be delayed or cancelled as well.

Logistics and other challenges

The Military Commission Hearings are a massive logistical undertaking. Each hearing requires coordinating and transporting nearly all of the persons involved in running the court and the hearings (attorneys, court staff, press, victims and their families, security, NGO observers and so on) from Andrews Air Force Base just outside of Washington D.C. to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Everybody boards the plane at Andrews at the beginning of the hearing week, and at the end of the hearings, everybody gets back on the plane in Cuba and flies back to Andrews.  Each government charter or military flight to Guantanamo for the Military Commission hearings reportedly costs $90,000 per flight.

Would it be less costly for the 5 defendants to be flown to the U.S.? Well, the defendants remain in Guantanamo as they are barred by federal law from being transported to any of the 50 states or the District of Columbia for any reason.

The challenges of creating a new justice system lead to delays that would otherwise not be necessary in a state, federal or military court. In Military Commission hearings some argue that certain rules and procedures of the court, rights of the defendants, evidentiary issues, etc. are more likely to be novel where no standard or precedent has been firmly established. Compared to their contemporaries in the United States military, state and federal court systems, attorneys, judges and court staff working in the Military Commission are blazing a trail through uncharted terrain and such a journey involves many uncertainties that serve to delay the judicial process.

An example is a story I was recently told where a defendant at the Military Commission hearings was requesting to dismiss his counsel and represent himself. In the US Federal or State Courts, the judge would attempt to ascertain whether the defendant understands what he is getting into, whether he was improperly influenced and whether he understands his rights. In the case of the Military Commission, the defendant’s attorney was unable to advise the client as to his rights because no one had previously defined what those rights would be. The hearings had to be delayed for a period of time while the interested parties decided what rights the defendant actually had (or at least what he needed to be advised of in order to be sufficiently informed regarding his decision to represent himself). In an Indiana state court, no such inordinate delay would be required as such a process is routine and has been well-established over the course of decades of jurisprudence.

Bureaucracy. Secrecy.

Bureaucracy and the desire for secrecy play a role in delaying the hearings. The Military Commissions and the operation of Camp Justice (where the hearings take place) involve a broad array of domestic government agencies from each branch of the armed forces, to the executive branch of government to the the United States Court of Appeals, etc. (a comprehensive list of stakeholders domestically and internationally would be quite long indeed).

Each agency involves itself for different, sometimes competing, reasons and each agency has its own bureaucratic rules and hierarchies that must be navigated. In addition, much of the evidence, the defendants themselves and many of the court filings require a security clearance to view or interact with. A good example of a bureaucratic delay is in the Hadi al Iraqi case which is currently delayed “until a time to be determined based on the detailing of counsel for this accused” after Hadi fired his attorney in late September, 2015. The replacement attorney must obtain a security clearance prior to speaking to Hadi. The process for approving the new attorney’s required security clearances may take 6 months or more. Even after receiving his or her clearance, the attorneys will then need to meet with Hadi (requiring some or all of the travel and other logistical challenges I mentioned earlier) and be given sufficient time to prepare before hearings may resume.

Matt

Matthew Kubal

As a monitor, I will attend, observe, analyze, critique and report on the Military Commission hearings. I will report my observations to this blog and will take part in the continued writing and editing of the draft Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual in hopes that it will serve as a guide for future Guantanamo Bay observers and anyone else interested in the hearings and trials.

Many of the ideas above are based on my memory and understanding of a recent briefing at the Indiana University McKinney School of Law provided by Indianapolis attorney Richard Kammen (who represents Mr. Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri). 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 Mr. Kammen.

Guantanamo hearings begin in 9/11 case

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Paul Schilling at Camp Justice. The U.S. flag is flying at 1/2 mast to honor the memory of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. (Photo taken 16 February 2016)

Our Guantanamo Bay tents are about 50 yards from the entrance to the war crimes courtroom complex that we walked to at 8:15 a.m. today, Tuesday, 16 February 2016.  We had to pass through airport-like security to get into the courtroom. Today’s hearings are in the case against the 5 alleged masterminds of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

The Observers sit in the gallery, with a thick protective glass separating our seating area from the defendants, counsel, judge and others in the main part of the courtroom. We stare through the glass at the backs of most of those of the courtroom, facing the judge.

We can see all that happens in the courtroom, as we peer through the thick glass. But our room is soundproof, and we can only hear what’s happening in court when TV screens with speakers are turned on, hanging in front of the glass gallery wall, piping in the audio.

Different sections of the gallery are reserved for the media, NGO Observers, and victims and their families (whose section can be cordoned off by a curtain should they wish). Military personnel may also take some of the gallery seats.

After we were all seated, the 5 accused entered the courtroom.

Each of these 5 accused has a civilian legal counsel and military counsel (Judge Adjutant General (“JAG”) attorneys).  Since this is a death penalty case, the Military Commission Act requires that the accused have an attorney that has previous death penalty case experience.  Civilian counsel for these 5 defendants have death penalty experience, and they are referred to as “Learned counsel”.

Courtroom Layout

Facing the judge on the left hand side of the courtroom are 5 tables, one for each of the accused, their civilian and military counsel, an interpreter and others on the defense team.  In the front and center of the courtroom is the military judge, Judge Pohl.  Judge Pohl sits elevated on the bench with a court security officer to his right (the left front of the courtroom), the witness stand to his left (the right front of the courtroom) with the court reporters located below, in front of the judge.  A speakers’ podium sits front and center of the judge and courtroom. The prosecution sits on the right side of the courtroom.  General Mark Martins is the Chief Prosecutor for all the U.S. Military Commissions.  We was present in court today and was seated with and assisted by attorneys from the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense, interpreters and 3 JAG officers.  To the far right of the courtroom is the jury box.  Since these hearings are for pre-trial discovery motions, there is no panel present.  Military Police (“MP”) personnel are located to the far left of the courtroom, along the left wall, and are seated there after escorting the defendants into the courtroom.   The are approximately 2-3 MPs for each defendant.  Paralegals, interpreters, MPs and other court personnel are located in the courtroom and may move about freely.

My general observations

As Observers, behind the glass, one of the ways we can best observe the proceedings is by closely observing the interactions of the players.  Here are some of my observations.

  • All 5 accused wore glasses entering the court and removed them as the proceeding went on
  • Kalid Sheikh Mohammad’s beard was partly black, partly white and partly orange.  It looked like it was dyed.
  • All of the accused interacted with their attorneys.  They shook hands, smiled and appeared to listen to their attorneys.  In fact, the interaction was similar to what you would expect to see between a defendant and his attorney in a criminal trial in a regular U.S. courtroom.
  • Two of the accused, Ali Aziz Ali and Mustafa al Hawsawi, spent much of today’s short court session talking to one another.
  • I thought Judge Pohl did an excellent job maintaining courtroom order and decorum.  He set out to explain things to the accused, and apparently sought to understand any concerns raised by the accused or counsel. He appeared to ask pertinent, difficult questions.  It seemed clear to me that he was in control of the hearing and has respect of counsel on both sides.
  • The Observers are viewing the hearing in real-time, through the glass.  However, the audio is delayed 40 seconds, for security reasons we were told.  This can make for awkward viewing.  For instance, we can see the personnel in the court stand up when the Judge enters.  However, we do not hear the “all rise” command until almost a minute has passed.  It can also make it difficult to determine when someone has finished speaking.  We can see them depart the podium, but we are still hearing their final remarks on the audio feed.

Proceedings

Today’s hearing did not begin until 9:15, about 15 minutes behind schedule.  Once the Judge was seated, he took the appearance of the parties and advised the accused of certain rights that they have.  He explained that the accused had a right to be present and it was their personal choice to attend or leave.  Most of the gallery was waiting in anticipation to hear the accused speak.  Each of the accused affirmed orally that they understood their rights as explained by the judge.  As Observers, we realized this is one of the few occasions that we may have to actually hear the accused speak, since during most hearings traditionally the lawyers and the judge do the talking.  The Judge explained what motions were going to be heard and asked defense counsel if there were any issues.

One of the defendants, Walid bin-Attash, expressed his desire to dismiss his learned counsel and military counsel.  From the testimony received and the judge’s statements, it appears that bin-Attash sent a letter (in arabic) to the Judge.  When questioned about the letter, bin-Attash stated that he did not trust his attorney and wished for new counsel.  It is my understanding that his lead attorney, Cheryl Bormann has been on the case since the beginning.  bin-Attash also expressed his intent to dismiss his other counsel, Michael Schwartz.  Schwartz was his previous military attorney.  Based on the testimony of his new military attorney, US Army Major Michael Seeger and bin-Attash, Seeger has only been on the case a very short period of time.  The Judge questioned counsel regarding an attorney’s duties to his/her client.  The Judge also questioned the accused regarding his intentions and whether he wished to retain Seeger. bin-Attash also provided the court with a second hand-written letter at the hearings, expressing his desire for new counsel.

The court allowed for input from other defense counsel and the prosecution.

After about an hour and a half, the court went into recess until tomorrow.  The Judge decided to have the letters translated and he would reconsider the request to dismiss counsel tomorrow.

For now, we are scheduled for a full day of hearings tomorrow, with the total hearing time today being only about 90 minutes.

Paul Schilling, JD graduate, Indiana University McKinney School of Law

(Published by Professor George Edwards on behalf of Mr. Shilling.)

 

Arrival at Guantanamo Bay Today

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Camp Justice — Where we are staying during our week at GTMO. Photo by Catherine Lemmer, IU McKinney School of Law)

Our flight to Guantanamo Bay was delayed leaving Andrews Air Force Base. We arrived at Guantanamo after a 3 hour flight. We were processed through the arrival gates and loaded a ferry to the main post. I found it interesting that all of the victims’ families, defense counsel, prosecutors, media, court stenographers and NGOs traveled on the same flight.

 

Our group of NGO Observers is staying at Camp Justice. Camp Justice is essentially rows of Quanset hut type tents. Our tents are air conditioned, with a 6-8 small bunks. We have a refrigerator, lights and electricity in all of the tents. Bathroom (latrine) tents and shower tents are located nearby. We were given a short period of time to get settled in. We then headed to the security office to obtain our badges. Badges are required for all NGO Observers, media, and others when occupying Camp Justice. We were given a short briefing regarding some of the rules and conditions. Our cell phones will not work (phone calling cards are available). Wi-Fi is very limited and available on some hotspots on the main post. We can, however, buy internet access through an Ethernet connection. It is slow, but it works.

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One of our Camp Justice tents.

We later took a tour of the main base. And, as the highlight of the evening, we were invited to a barbeque with some of the defense counsel. When asked about the volume of filings in the case, one attorney remarked that the 9/11 hearings have over 11,000 pages of transcript and over 20,000 pages of motions. We also learned that the public transcripts are usually available online within 24 hours. It was an opportunity for us to talk to the counsel, as attorneys, and get their input on some of the questions we had.

On a sad note, we learned of the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, when one of our NGO attorneys drew our attention to the CNN headline.

There are no hearings scheduled for tomorrow. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. The dining facility will host a Valentine’s Day brunch. We are scheduled to tour the lighthouse and receive a briefing from Brigadier General Martins, the Chief Prosecutor of the US Military Commissions.

I recognize that I am the eyes and ears into Guantanamo Bay and the Military Commissions for many people in Indiana and elsewhere who will not have the opportunity to visit this base. In upcoming blogs I will report more on the substance of our monitoring work, as well as my other experiences here in Cuba.

Paul Schilling

Indiana University McKinney School of Law, JD Graduate

Indiana Deputy Attorney Geberal (posting in personal capacity)

(Posted by G. Edwards on behalf of P. Schillng)

 

At Andrews Air Force Base Traveling to Guantanamo Bay

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Paul Schilling reading the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual, published by Indiana’s Military Commission Observation Project. The Manual, which comes in 2 Volumes, provides insights into rights and interests of all stakeholders in the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Military Commission process.

Paul Schilling is traveling to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, today (13 February 2016) to monitor U.S. Military Commission hearings in the case against the 5 alleged masterminds of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Schilling is representing the Military Commission Observation Project (MCOP) of the Indiana University McKinney School of Law’s Program in International Human Rights Law. I am the founding faculty director of this program, and because Paul had technical issues in posting from Andrews, I am posting a few photos on his behalf.

Schilling was selected from Indiana McKinney Law School affiliates, which includes faculty, staff, current students and alumni. Our Program has sent dozens of Affiliates to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to monitor Military Commissions live, and to Ft. Meade, Maryland, where Affiliates can monitor hearings broadcast via a secure videolink into a theater on the Ft. Meade base.

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View of Andrews Air Terminal from the tarmac.

Schilling currently serves as Deputy Attorney General of Indiana, and is a veteran of Afghanistan. You can read his posts on this page:   GitmoObserver Blog. Schilling is blogging in his personal capacity and not on behalf of his employer or his law school, with his opinions being his own.

More information about the Military Commission Observations Project can be found at this link:   MCOP Link

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Bunkers at Andrews Air Force Base that house Air Force One.

To download a free copy of Volume I and Volume II of the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manualclick here:  Manual

George Edwards

 

 

 

Preparing to Travel to Guantanamo Bay

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U.S. Military Commissions charging defendants with war crimes are held at Camp Justice at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Photo by Catherine Lemmer, Indiana University McKinney School of Law)

I am a practicing attorney with the Office of the Indiana Attorney General and an alumnus of the Indiana University McKinney School of Law. I am also a veteran of Afghanistan.  I was selected to travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (“Gitmo”) to represent the  Military Commission Observer Program (“MCOP”) which is part of the law school’s Program in International Human Rights Law (“PIHRL”).  This program, which was founded by Professor George Edwards, sends law school affiliates to Guantanamo to monitor hearings in criminal cases related to a range of international crimes. My participation in this program is in my own personal capacity, and my blog posts and other comments are my own, and not of my employer or of my law school.

 

AAFB - Paul Schilling - 13 Feb 2016

Updated — Here I am at Andrews Air Force Base on Saturday, 13 February 2016, waiting for my flight to Guantanamo Bay. I’m reading the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual that Professor George Edwards developed to help Observers understand rights and interests of stakeholders, and help them as they monitor the Military Commissions

I am scheduled to monitor the hearings scheduled for February 15-19, 2016, in the case against 5 alleged perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon.

 

I was previously scheduled to attend hearings in the case against Hadi al Iraqi, who was allegedly a liaison between al Queda Iraq and the Taliban.  Those hearings were postponed.  Those hearings were in Gitmo, but I was going to monitor them from a remote viewing site – at Fort Meade, Maryland, where the Gitmo courtroom proceedings are simultaneously projected by secure video link.

The Role of the Observers

The MCOP sends observers to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to monitor the commission hearings in person. Our role as observers is to attend, observe, analyze, critique and report on the proceedings.  We seek to gather information that sheds light on whether the rights of all stakeholders have been afforded to them.  A stakeholder is an individual (or organization) holding rights and/or interests in the Military Commissions.  Military Commission stakeholders include, for example, the defendants, defense counsel, the prosecution, victims and their families, judges, witnesses, the press, the international community and countries with detained citizens at Gitmo.

The MCOP has been researching international and domestic U.S. Law that governs the Military Commissions, and analyzing it in the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual.  The Manual, which is in draft form, is used by Observers and others interested in ascertaining whether a fair trial is being afforded to all stakeholders.

Background:
In preparation for my trip, I took some time to review the charges and some background research on the defendants. On September 11, 2001, 19 men hijacked 4 planes in the US. Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, 1 plane crashed into the Pentagon and the fourth plane crashed in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. In all 2,921 civilians were killed as a direct result of these attacks. Al Queda, a reported terrorist organization said to be run by Usama Bin Laden (“UBL”) claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Court documents charge that al Queda planned for the 9/11 attacks for years. It was charged that in August 1996, UBL proclaimed a holy war against the US, and that Khalid Shaikh Mohammad (“KSM”) and UBL discussed hijacking commercial airliners and crashing them into buildings in the US. Preparations would have included identifying the “pilots”, obtaining visas, funding the terrorists, flight schools and simulators and casing airport security to determine the feasibility of an attack.

All 5 of the defendants in the case I am scheduled to observe were allegedly involved in the planning process and allegedly provided material support to the hijackers.

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Khalid Shaikh Mohammad

KSM and and the other co-defendants, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hasawi are charged as having participated in various stages leading up to the 9/11 attacks.

The official charges against the defendants include the following, though it is not clear whether all the charges (e.g., the crime of conspiracy) will survive challenges by the defense:

Charges: All Defendants:
1. Conspiracy;
2. Attacking Civilians;
3. Attacking Civilian Objects;
4. Murder in Violation of the Law of War;
5. Destruction of Property in Violation of the Law of War;
6. Hijacking or Hazarding a Vessel or Aircraft;
7. Terrorism

The Military Commission Observation Program requires me to submit daily blog entries. My next blog post will be from Andrews Air Force Base, from where we are scheduled to fly to Gitmo on Saturday morning, February 13, 2016.

My next substantive blog post will likely summarize some of the motions that we are expected to hear this coming week. Also, I will report on my trip to Guantanamo Bay, noting my observations.

I recognize that I am serving as the eyes and ears of many people who will never be permitted to travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I feel a special obligation to report comprehensively, thoroughly, and accurately on behalf of those who are not as fortunate as I am to have such an opportunity.

Paul Schilling — J.D. ’10, Indiana University McKinney School of Law; Indiana Deputy Attorney General (participating and commenting in my own personal capacity and not that of my law school or my employer).

Hearings Cancelled this Week

January 26 & 27 Guantanamo Hearings Cancelled

I am a first year law student at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, and I was set to travel to Ft. Meade Maryland this week to observe hearings via lifestream from Guantanamo Bay. The hearings scheduled for this week were for Hadi al Iraqi, who is alleged to, among other charges, have been involved in a series of attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan around 2003 and 2004. The hearing postponement appears to have resulted from a motion for continuance filed by the defense. The defense filed two motions for continuance in January. Although neither the motions for continuance nor the responses to those motions have been made public, I suspect they are related to the hearings being cancelled this week. I feel a little disappointed that this week’s hearings were cancelled, although I must admit I was concerned that bad weather could cause problems with travel from Indianapolis to Ft. Meade.

I review the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trail Manuals in preparation for my observer mission.

I review the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trail Manuals in preparation for my observer mission.

A Rare Opportunity

Not many people have the opportunity to view the hearings of an alleged war criminal. Although the hearing for this week was cancelled, I hope that I will be able to attend one of the other hearings in the future. I understand that delays and postponements are inevitable, but hopefully these will not affect my future travel plans.

Eichmann Trial

A few years ago I read a book by Hannah Arendt entitled Eichmann in Jerusalem, in which Arendt describes the challenges associated with reporting on the trial of Adolf Eichmann who was tried for having a major role in the atrocities of the Holocaust. One of the specific challenges Arendt noted is a problem associated with holding a trial for someone who is generally believed to be guilty from the start. She questioned whether such a trial trial can have legitimacy, or if it is more of a show. As I go into this process, this issue does not concern me. I believe it is important to have a trial, especially in these instances. One concern is that most people likely believe that those held in Guantanamo Bay are guilty, based solely on the fact that they are being held there. Holding a trial is an essential part of ensuring that all stakeholders are treated fairly. My role as an observer is an essential part of this process. I take this role very seriously and will always strive to remain objective when reporting on the procedural process.

Final Thoughts

I remain optimistic about my observer mission, despite the first hearing I was set to view being cancelled. As I continue the semester I hope I can find time to attend another hearing, and ultimately hope to travel to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to see a hearing in person.

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.

Enroute to Guantanamo Bay for 9/11 Hearings

I arrived at Andrews Air Force Base in the dark and am all checked in. I got my ticket and had a chance to read the Andrews Gazette while waiting for the rest of the NGO Observers to arrive.

Andrews gazette

I’ve introduced myself to the other NGO Observers as they arrived and I’ve handed out the newest version of our Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual. There are seven observers this time, representing law schools, human rights and other non-profit organizations, and the private bar. I look forward to sharing conversations and learning from them this week.

Andrews Air Force Lemmer

Professor Catherine Lemmer at Andrews Air Force Base     5 December 2015

The issues before the hearing this week are of great interest — classified information, the female guard issue, the CIA interpreter issue, and the continuing conflict-of-interest issues. I was at Guantanamo Bay for the February 2015 9/11 hearings when the CIA interpreter issue stopped the hearings. I am very interested to see how that issue will be advanced.  It will also be interesting to see if the recent move by the military to open all combat positions to women will have an impact on the discussion of the female guard issue.

The chatter in the departure lounge is that the week is shaping up to be very productive.  It is sure to be an interesting and informative week.

By:  Catherine A. Lemmer, 5 December 2015, 9/11 Hearings, Guantanamo Bay

40 Seconds is a Long Time & Other GTMO Musings

Monday, February 9, was my first observation experience in the Guantanamo Bay courtroom. It is difficult to describe because I am prohibited from writing much of what I would like to say about the activities in the courtroom. It is a highly controlled area. A sign informs observers that among other things, sketching and even doodling, are prohibited in the gallery. After seeing the courtroom activity, I believe even more so that the courtroom proceedings should be broadcast live on C-SPAN or other network.

Observers, along with the media, are seated in a four-row gallery behind a glass window. Upon entering the gallery you are given an assigned seat number. Media representatives, along with the court sketch artist, are assigned to the front row. Media may also watch the courtroom action on a direct feed to their office/lounge. This allows them to send immediate updates. There is a special gallery section for the family members of 9/11 victims. A curtain can be drawn to protect the victim family members from view of others in the event there is a need for privacy.

The defendants are able to see into the gallery; and at one point Khalid Sheihk Mohammed looked back and acknowledged one of his pro bono attorneys who was present in the gallery.

The gallery is on a 40-second delay. It is amazing how long 40 seconds feels! The time delay gets a bit weird when the “all rise” is given when Judge Pohl leaves and the gallery is still processing the last minute of the activity. I was standing and still scribbling notes as I watched the monitor.

There are a lot of actions that seem unnecessarily proscribed at Guantanamo Bay.  For example, the NGO Observer office/lounge is in the old airport hangar, as is the media’s office/lounge. However, we enter our NGO Observer office/lounge from a door on the outside of the building and can’t go into the hangar. During General Martins’ press briefing, the NGO Observers could not go into the hangar and watch.  We had to stay in our office/lounge and watch it via a live link.

DSCN0945 NGO Observers Media

 

 

 

 

 

 

Similarly the NGO Observers had to watch the defense team press briefing in our NGO Observer lounge/office. The feed to the NGO Observer lounge/office was terminated at the end of the hour, even though the press asked the defense teams if they would continue with the briefing. The NGO Observers later learned that the questions and answers continued for some time after the feed was terminated.

After the startling allegations against the newly assigned interpreter by Ramzi bin al Shibh, one NGO observer remarked “you just can’t make this stuff up!” That about sums up the process here at Guantanamo Bay.

 (Catherine Lemmer, 9/11 Hearings, Guantanamo Bay, February 9-13, 2015)

Still Awaiting A 9/11 Update

On Monday, February 9, Judge Pohl recessed the 9/11 hearings to permit General Martins’ prosecution team and the defense teams to investigate the allegations made by the 9/11 defendant, Ramzi bin al Shibh, that he recognized the new interpreter assigned to his defense team as a worker at a CIA black site. Interestingly, his statement naming the individual and directly making reference to a CIA black site was not censored by the Courtroom Security Officer. As a result, the unofficial transcript first posted to the Military Commissions site included the interpreter’s name. Later in the afternoon a redacted unofficial transcript was posted. A number of the NGO Observers felt that the inclusion of the interpreter’s name in a public document was unwise.

General Martins asked for time to discover the facts and file “papers.”  Defense teams asked that the filings be adversarial (ie., available to the defense) rather than ex parte. In addition, defense teams asked that the interpreter be made available for interviews.

There has been a good deal of going and coming of lawyers at the courtroom.  However, no news is leaking out to the NGO Observers. It is now 6:30 pm on Tuesday and the docket does not specifically reflect any filings by the prosecution or the defense on this matter. The prosecution did file an “Unclassified Notice of  Classified Filing” earlier today. The document is not available for public review.

Although there is much speculation as to whether the 9/11 hearings will move forward, there is no news as of this time.

(Catherine Lemmer, 9/11 Hearings, Guantanamo Bay)

9/11 Hearings Halted

The 9/11 hearings at Guantanamo Bay were recessed until 9:00 am Wednesday, February 11 to give the defense and prosecution teams to investigate the defense team interpreter accused of being a CIA black site worker.

Today’s action started with a request by retiring Navy Lieutenant Commander Kevin Bogucki to resign from the defense team for Ramzi bin al Shibh.  When asked if he accepted Major Elena Wichner as new counsel, Mr. bin al Shibh stated that he could not trust the defense team interpreter sitting next to him because he recognized him as CIA black site worker that was involved in the CIA Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program.  Cheryl Bohrmann, Learned Counsel for Walid bin Attash, stated her client had informed her of the same just minutes before.

Ironically the interpreter alleged to be a CIA black site worker replaced the individual dismissed from Mr. bin al Shibh’s team who was found to be the FBI infiltrator.

After a brief recess to bring in General Martin’s prosecution team, Judge Pohl asked the prosecution and defense for a “way forward.”  General Martin’s asked for time to investigate and make filings. David Nevin, Learned Counsel for Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, requested that the Military Commission require the dismissed interpreter be held on the island and made available for interviews with the defense.

Cheryl Bohrmann inquired of Judge Pohl if General Martins’ prosecution team was the best option for the investigation of what might again be the government’s infiltration of the defense teams. She noted that her client, Mr. bin Attash, was “visibly shaken” and suggested the the Special Review Team already in place to investigate the FBI conflict-of-interest matter should be used.

Judge Pohl chose to rely on the prosecution and indicated that he didn’t intend that this matter would go through the usual three-week briefing schedule. The hearings are recessed until Wednesday, February 11.

(Catherine Lemmer, 9/11 Hearings, Guantanamo Bay, February 9-13, 2015)

Sunrise Over Andrews Air Force Base

The sun is on the horizon and the departure lounge at Andrews Air Force Base has  started to fill up.  The wall outlets are in demand; and the wifi is slowing down. sunrise 2

The nine NGO Observers are all here as we are the first to check-in. I have already distributed copies of the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual — everyone is most appreciative! One NGO Observer had already downloaded it from the link I sent in yesterday’s introductory email.

As soon as I finish this post I am off to continue conversatiodepart 2n with some of the defense lawyers and members of the media.

(Catherine Lemmer, 9/11 Hearings, Guantanamo Bay, February 9-13, 2015)

 

First Up: Motions on Severance & Conflict-of-Interest

gitmo picI am en route via Chicago and Washington D.C. to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for the first week of the 9/11 hearings.  The hearings are scheduled to start at 9:00 am on Monday, 9 February 2015. Judge Pohl has ordered that all five defendants must be present in court.

The first issue to be addressed during this session is reconsideration of Judge Pohl’s order of August 2014 (AE312) to sever Ramzi bin al Shibh’s case from the other four 9/11 defendants. Mr. in al Shibh’s case was severed as a result of the prosecution’s request for a competency hearing for him as well as the conflict-of-interest matter arising from FBI investigation into his defense team. If this sounds familiar, it should. These same motions were scheduled for hearing but not heard when the December 2014 hearings were cancelled over the female guard issue.

The resolution of the potential conflict-of-interest matter is a complex issue that has delayed the hearings for nearly a year. In 2014, the Military Commission concluded that there was no actual or potential conflict with respect to four of the five 9/11 defense teams. The Military Commission did conclude that there may be an actual or potential conflict with respect to the legal team representing Mr. bin al Shibh. In August, Judge Pohl ordered Independent Counsel for Mr. bin al Shibh to investigate and advise him. Lt Col Julie Pitvorek, USAF was assigned as Independent Counsel for Mr. bin al Shibh. LtCol Pitvorek will be present at the February hearings, as will Mr. Harrington and Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Bogucki, Mr. bin al Shibh’s present counsel.

In April 2014 a Special Review Team consisting of Department of Justice prosecutors was appointed to investigate the FBI’s undisclosed interviews and investigations of certain members of the 9/11 defense teams. The creation of the Special Review Team was required because General Martins’ prosecution team can not investigate the defense teams. The Special Review Team functions as the prosecution with respect to the investigation of the defense teams and whether the FBI activity created a conflict-of-interest for the defense team.  The Special Review Team was in court at the preliminary hearings in June, August, and October on behalf of the prosecution. These prosecutors will be in court for the February hearings to represent the government for the three pleadings that will be heard by Judge Pohl related to these matters.  Should these matters be resolved, the parties will move on to the many other matters scheduled for argument in the following weeks.

The matters before the Military Commission are legally and factually complex. It makes it challenging for NGO Observers tasked with observing, analyzing, and reporting on whether the military commissions are open, transparent, and providing fair trials to the defendants.  It is important that we focus on our specific role in the process. The Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual is a great tool to help us do so.

The matters scheduled on the docket include:

AE 312C Defense Response to Emergency Government Motion to Reconsider AE 302 Severance Order The order severing Mr. bin al Shibh is currently in abeyance (temporarily suspended). The judge may revoke the order, sever Mr. bin al Shibh, or continue to hold it in abeyance.)

AE 292RR Prosecution Special Review Team Motion for Reconsideration of AE 292QQ (Order) (Prosecution Special Review Team seeks to have Judge Pohl reconsider his decision that there may be a potential conflict within Mr. bin al Shibh’s defense counsel.)

AE 292VV Defense Motion to Compel Discovery Related to Interference with Defense Function by the United States.  (The defense asks Judge Pohl to compel the Prosecution’s Special Review Team to provide the evidence related to the FBI’s investigations of the defense teams. )

AE 292YY Defense Motion for Appropriate Relief-Disclosure by Military Judge Whether He has Acquired Information Relating to the Case from an Undisclosed Source and the Details of the Information (The defense asks Judge Pohl to disclose what information he has about the FBI investigation that has not been provided to the defense.)

AE152 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.)

AE 254KK Prosecution Government Motion For an Expedited Litigation Schedule to Resolve AE 254Y (The prosecution requests oral argument relating to the issue of female guards in contact positions with defendants.)

AE 331 Military Commission Judge Trial Conduct Order (The military judge ordered the government to review the Protective Order regarding classified information and sealed pleadings in light of the release of the Torture Report.)

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 to bring 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 Counsel and Mr. al Hawsawi’s 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 Counsel and Mr. al Hawsawi’s Learned Counsel.)

AE 254 Defense Emergency Defense Motion to Permit Attorney-Client Meetings (The defense position is that JTF-GTMO is interfering with attorney-client visits.)

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 CIA 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 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 with the defendants.)

AE 195 Defense Motion to Compel Production of Communications Between Government (The defense seeks information about government involvement with the movie Zero Dark and Filmmakers of 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.)

AE 119 Defense Motion to Dismiss and to Compel a Status Determination Pursuant to Article 5 of the Geneva Conventions (The defense asserts that there is a question as to the status of the defendants under Article 5 of the Geneva Conventions and charges should be dismissed.)

AE 164 Defense Motion to Stay all Review Under 10 U.S.C. § 949-4 and to Declare 10 U.S.C. §949p-4(c) and M.C.R.E. 505(f)(3) Unconstitutional and In Violation of UCMJ and Geneva Conventions (The defense argues that the Commission’s decision to permit trial counsel to substitute, summarize, withhold, or prevent access to classified information is unconstitutional.)

AE 018W Joint Defense Motion to Amend AE 018U Privileged Written Communications Order (The defense argues that interpretations of the provisions in the written communication order are restricting attorney-client communications and should be amended to protect the rights to effective assistance of counsel and to prepare and participate in own defense.)

AE 018BB Defense (WBA) Motion to Compel Paper Discovery in Accordance with Privileged Written Communications Order (The defense requests that the Commission order the government to provide a duplicate copy of all paper discovery materials releasable to Mr. bin ‘Attash.)

AE 018MM Defense Motion to Compel Reasonable Privilege Review Team Hours of Operation (The defense requests that the Commission order the Privilege Review Team (PRT) to maintain reasonable weekend hours at all times; or at a minimum, maintain weekend hours for processing materials immediately prior and to and following hearings, or when there are approved attorney-client visits.)

AE 161 Defense (AAA) Motion to Require the Government to Comply with MCRE 506 Regarding redaction of Unclassified Discovery (The defense argues the Commission should order the prosecution to produce the complete, unredacted copies of certain unclassified discovery documents under Military Commissions Rule of  Evidence 506.)

AE 190 Defense (AAA) Motion to Compel Production of Information Relating to Statements Made by Mr. al Baluchi or Potential Witnesses at a Detention Facility Classified Motion AE 191 Defense (AAA) Motion to Compel Production of Information  Classified Motion AE 194 Defense (AAA) Motion to Compel Discovery of Mr. al Baluchi’s Statements (The defense requests that the military judge compel production of all records of all statements made by Mr. al Baluchi in the government’s possession

(Catherine Lemmer, 9/11 Hearings, Guantanamo Bay February 9-13, 2015)

Stakeholder Rights – The Prosecution

I am scheduled to leave for Guantanamo Bay on February 7 to obusbaseserve the Guantanamo Bay military commission pre-trial proceedings in the case against the five 9/11 defendants. The flight is a little longer than necessary because the plane is prohibited from crossing Cuban air space. In addition to the NGO Observers, the plane to Guantanamo Bay will carry many of the other players, including the defense teams, prosecutors, media, and victim family members.

As an NGO Observer, it is my role to attend, observe, analyze, critique, and report back on the Guantanamo Bay proceedings to help ensure that the proceedings are fair and transparent for all of the stakeholders. The Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual sets out the rights and interests of the many stakeholders: the defendants, prosecution, victims and their families, press, witnesses, Joint-Task Force-GTMO, U.S. citizens, international community, and NGO observers.

general martins
Brigadier General Mark Martins (Harvard University)

Since my December 2014 Guantanamo Bay mission I have given a good deal of thought to the rights of one stakeholder group in particular: the prosecution. I met Brigadier General Martins, the chief prosecutor, and some members of his team in December during the NGO observer briefing. During the briefing he was asked the “How did you get here question?” In his response he described his past military service, conversations with family, and his legal education and training.

At the conclusion of our meeting, I thanked him for taking on the role of chief prosecutor. Many might wonder why. The short answer is that the prosecutor represents the rights and interests of society as a whole. The guarantee of a fair and transparent trial is as dependent on the prosecution upholding its duty to all of the stakeholders as it is on the defense teams zealously working on behalf of their clients and the judges engaging in thoughtful and insightful legal analysis when rendering rulings.

Standard 1.1 of the National Prosecution Standards of the National District Attorney’s Association states that “the primary responsibility of a prosecutor is to seek justice, which can only be achieved by the representation and presentation of the truth.” Standard 3-1.2(c) of the ABA Standards for Criminal Justice further notes that it is the duty of the prosecutor to “seek justice, not merely to convict.”  10 USC §949(b) (2014) prohibits the coercion or influence of military commission prosecutors. As a stakeholder entitled to a fair trial the prosecution in fulfilling its duty to seek justice has the right to operate with sufficient resources, without judicial prejudice, and free from outside influence.

The duty to seek justice through the representation and presentation of the truth is not necessarily inconsistent with a military commission proceeding. General Martins has indicated that the prosecution is bringing only those charges it believes it can prove; and that no classified information will be used as evidence as it is important for all the stakeholders to be able to evaluate the merits of the evidence. In short, he has advocated for justice with an open and transparent proceeding. However, General Martins and his team are in the challenging position of bearing the burden of illegal and unethical actions by governmental units over which he has no authority (e.g., the FBI and CIA). It may not be possible to counter the taint of these actions on the military commission proceedings. It remains to be seen how he and his team will balance the consequences of these actions while upholding the duty to seek justice.

He is an equally delicate balance with respect to the families of the victims. General Martins often speaks of justice for the victims. The voice of the victims and their families is a strong and compelling voice and the jury (panel) when finally selected and sitting will undoubtedly empathize with it.  As the proceedings progress, those interested in a fair and open process will need to be attentive to ensure that the prosecution serves justice by remaining neutral to and independent of each individual stakeholder group.

(Catherine Lemmer, 9/11 Hearings, Guantanamo Bay, February 2015)

By the Numbers: An Observation on 9/11 Transparency

Saturday, February 7, will find me again in the departure lounge at Andrews Air Force Base awaiting my departure to Guantanamo Bay to observe the 9/11 hearings scheduled to take place the week of February 9.  The military commission made the 6-page amended docket available on January 26, 2015.  The docket lists over 30 motions; and notes that counsel should be prepared to argue any other motion for which the briefing schedule has concluded.

KSM II Docket February 2015

 

In an effort to prepare for the upcoming hearings, I went to the military commission website to review the relevant documents. Whenever I go to the case site I am reminded of the overwhelming complexity of these hearings. Here are just a few numbers I noted:

  • 2959 documents listed on the docket (269 webpages)
  • 55 documents filed in January 2015
    • 32 documents filed by the defense teams
    • 4 documents files by the prosecution
    • 19 documents filed by the commission

Of the 55 documents filed in January 2015, three are available for public review. One of these three is the amended docket.

Transparency is one key to making sure there are fair and open trials afforded to the defendants held at Guantanamo Bay. The inability to review court filings casts an interesting shadow on the goal of transparency.  Other key elements of fair and open trials are detailed in the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Manual that I will be taking and distributing to NGO Observers and other interested persons next week.

(Catherine Lemmer, 9/11 Hearings GTMO, February 2015)