FBI Infiltration of Defense Teams

Preparing for the 9-11 Guantanamo Bay Hearings

My work with the The Gitmo Observer

I have been involved with the U.S. Military Commission Observation Project (“MCOP”) (also known as The Gitmo Observer) since mid-spring 2014.  In my position as a law librarian at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law I have worked on developing and maintaining The GITMO Observer site and providing research support for the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Observation Manual.  Thus I am honored and excited to have been selected to serve as an NGO observer at the upcoming military commission hearings on December 15 and 16 at Guantanamo Bay.

My work in South Africa

I begin assisting Professor George Edwards and the MCOP upon my return from South Africa in April 2014. I spent six months (September 2013 – April 2014) in Johannesburg as a Senior Fellow at the Legal Resources Centre of South Africa (LRC). The LRC is South Africa’s largest and oldest national public interest law organization. Established in 1979, the LRC lawyers challenged apartheid and played important roles in drafting the South African Constitution. In 1994, Nelson Mandela appointed LRC’s founder, Arthur Chaskalson, to serve as the first President of South Africa’s Constitutional Court. The LRC advances research and provides free legal services to the poor and vulnerable in the areas of land and housing rights, children’s rights and education, environmental justice, HIV/AIDS, health and social services, refugee matters, and women’s equality.

George Bizos 85th Birthday 010During my time with the LRC, I enjoyed many a brown bag lunch with George Bizos, an LRC lawyer. An internationally renowned South African human rights lawyer, George Bizos is credited with crafting the three words in Nelson Mandela’s statement during his 1964 treason trial which resulted in the imposition of life imprisonment rather than the death sentence. Upon learning that an American sat across the tea table from him the first time we met, George looked at me and said, “I have sympathy with his position but your President Obama has to shut down Guantanamo Bay.”  The topic of Guantanamo Bay would come up often during the six months I spent at the LRC and my knowledge of what was happening and why at Guantanamo Bay would prove woeful in comparison to that of George Bizos. The MCOP provided a fortuitous opportunity to learn more about the military commission process at Guantanamo Bay upon my return to the States.

The 9-11 case / Khalid Shaik Mohammed case that I will monitor next week

I will be observing hearings with respect to the five 9-11 defendants: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin ‘Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi.

Earlier this week Professor Edwards was able to confirm that the hearings will involve matters of guard gender, the FBI probe/conflict of counsel, and the hearing schedule for 2015.

My preparation for the hearings

Even though I have been involved with the MCOP project, I had and still have lots of preparation to do. I’ve reread parts of the Guantanamo Bay Fair Trial Observation Manual to better understand my obligations to observe and analyze the proceedings. I am also reading the many documents related to this matter that are hosted on the U.S. Office of Military Commissions website. This is a complex case with five defendants and five separate defense teams.  As a result, I have also been reading biographical information on the Human Rights Watch and other sites to help me identify and keep separate each of the defendants. Later this week I am meeting with two other observers, Hattie Harmon and Chuck Dunlap, who have recently observed proceedings at Guantanamo Bay for advice and information.

Lecture by Gitmo Defense Counsel – Rick Kammen

I recently attended a lecture by Rick Kammen, the lead lawyer for al Nashiri  in the USS Cole case. His presentation focused on the many systemic problems of the Guantanamo Bay military commissions. What was readily apparent from his presentation is that Americans as a whole don’t pay much attention to the activities of the military commissions. In addition to its critically important work to ensure fair and transparent trials for all the stakeholders, MCOP is equally important in that it offers opportunities for many of us to become involved and expand awareness in others.

(Posted by Catherine Lemmer)

Meeting with Chief Prosecutor – Part II – Wednesday

The NGO Lounge at GITMO where NGO's have a place to work (without Wi Fi though)

The “NGO Lounge” at GITMO where NGO’s have a place to work (without Wi Fi though)

More on the NGO meeting with the Chief Prosecutor General Martins

To conclude a summary of our meeting with General Martins, Chief Prosecutor for the Military Commissions, here are several other topics we discussed in our meeting:

No Miranda warnings required

• One of the primary differences with the Military Commissions and traditional Article III Courts are the different standards regarding Miranda Rights and the admission of hearsay evidence. Generally the standards for admission of hearsay evidence and evidence gathered without first issuing a Miranda warning is less strict. Gen. Martins stressed that due to the nature of the environment where the evidence is collected (often in a theatre of war) there are not always trained law enforcement personnel available and therefore the standard should be different than in a traditional civilian law enforcement/Court setting. That being said, he reiterated that even though the standards may be “lower” there is still a threshold that must be met and not just anything can be admitted. There is still a need for the prosecution to prove that the evidence being proffered is reliable through a “totally of the circumstances” analysis and the defense has an opportunity to counter that through cross examination etc. which is all set forth in the MCA of 2009.

Timetable for al Nashiri trial

• One specific question from the group was when he thought the actual trial would begin for Al-Nashiri. Gen. Martins indicated that he anticipated that at the current pace and posture of the case, the trial could begin in the fall of 2015.

Evidence generated from “enhanced interrogation”?

• In addition, he also noted that for the government’s case it will use no testimony generated from any enhanced interrogation procedures.

Declassifying information

• Gen. Martins also indicated that the government is under an obligation to declassify as much information as possible under the MCROE 505 and that they have been striving to meet that obligation. He also pointed to the volume of materials and direct resources and documents from the proceedings that are available for anyone to ready and review on the internet, and that they strive to make the entire process extremely open and public as the MCA requires.

Listening device disguised as smoke detector in attorney / client meeting room; FBI investigating defense team members

Some of the aL-Nashiri hearing NGO Observers at a table outside our tents.  They stopped letting NGOs have wifi access at this location.

Some of the aL-Nashiri hearing NGO Observers at a table outside our tents. They stopped letting NGOs have wifi access at this location.

• In response to a question from the group, Gen. Martins discussed some of the particularly troublesome issue that some observers of the process have mentioned concerning the revelations of a listening device concealed in a smoke detector in a room where attorneys met and conferred with their clients at GITMO, as well as the FBI interviewing members of the defense team and having nondisclosure statements about the interviews so other members of the defense team would not know of the interviews occurring. The FBI issue is currently being litigated in the 911 case and Gen. Martins has walled himself off from that case so he wasn’t able to comment very much on that other to say that it was a legitimate issue from both sides and the judge is currently hearing arguments on it. Regarding the smoke detector issue, he indicated that the facts presented showed that the room was a multi-purpose room used for other detainee procedures where surveillance was necessary and the listening devices were not operative during the attorney client meetings.

ISIS / ISIL — Captured taken to GTMO?

• An additional question raised by the group concerned the current conflict with ISIS/ISIL in the middle-east and whether or not in the event any of their members were captured, would they potentially be transferred to GITMO to face a military commission. The General responded that it is an open question (and theoretical at this point) on how that would be handled. There are several issues associated with that question that all have to do with the limited jurisdiction of the military commissions based on the MCA of 2009. You would need to explore if they are affiliated with Al Qaeda, are they foreign nationals, are they unlawful enemy belligerents etc.

Future Updates

I will also be posting future updates from the subsequent day’s activities of this trip.