As we near the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the five men accused of being the “masterminds” still have not been granted a speedy trial. After several years of delays, the trial was once again set back last week as the U.S. military canceled another pretrial hearing.
Reuters reports that a spokesman for the Department of Defense said the hearing scheduled for August 24 through Sept. 4 was canceled by James Pohl, an Army colonel and judge for the trial.
“The judge cited issues that remain unresolved with regard to a claimed defense counsel conflict of interest,” said Commander Gary Ross.
The conflict of interest first became an issue in 2014 when the defense attorneys for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four alleged co-conspirators said they believed they were being spied on by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Foreign Policy reported, “the FBI had secretly conducted an investigation into possible wrongdoing on the part of one or more members of the five separate defense teams (one for each defendant). Such an investigation could put defense team members in the untenable position of having to provide information to defend themselves or others against possible criminal action — information that could be used against the interests of their own clients.”
There was also the issue of interference from outside sources during the hearings. FP continues:
“In January 2013, the court’s audio-visual feed, visible to a small set of commission observers, was abruptly cut off by someone other than Judge Pohl; previously, Pohl was believed to be the only person with the authority to use the unique-to-Guantanamo “kill-switch.” Later, a clearly annoyed Pohl learned that something called the Original Classification Authority (OCA) — which is likely the CIA given that most of the information subject to censorship in the case is related to the agency’s rendition, detention, and interrogation program — had hit the kill switch. Judge Pohl promptly cut off their privileges.
In February 2013 it was revealed that listening devices were hidden within smoke detectors, possibly infringing upon attorney-client privileges. The defense also claimed their emails and work files were disappearing. Former defendant Ramzi Bin al-Shibh was also removed from the trial by the judge in an attempt to speed the process along after so many delays. However, critics argue that al-Shibh was removed because he refused to be quiet, complaining loudly of sleep deprivation.
Maj. Jason Wright was a veteran of the military since 2005, serving 15 months in Iraq and was working as a Judge Advocate. He was extremely critical of the government and their efforts to slow or hinder the trial. “All six of these men have been tortured by the U.S. government,” Wright told NPR.
The slow progress of the trial corresponds with a report by the Telegraph in 2012, which stated that the trial would likely not begin for another four years in 2016. When ever the trial finally does get underway the public will not know much about what these men have to say because the proceedings will not be televised or publicly available. In 2012, Al-Jazeera reported, “The government has produced a protective order to make everything the defendants say presumptively classified, pending completion of a classification review.”
The five men have been held since 2002 and 2003. They face the death penalty if found guilty in the planning of the September 11 attacks. The attacks of that day took the lives of nearly 3,000 people. Since that time, a real investigation into not only these men, but the entire events of that day, has been stifled by the U.S. government.
If this nation wishes to reclaim the idea of a nation of justice and laws, these men must be given a proper trial. Once the truth about that day finally comes to light, then, and only then, will this country truly begin to heal from the wounds of September 11, 2001.