4-11-2013By Adam Jacobson
Law and Security Program
So I was supposed to go to Guantanamo Bay next week to observe the pre-trial hearings in the military commission case against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Al-Nashiri is the alleged mastermind behind the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 in Yemen and the French oil tanker Limburg in 2002. Al-Nashiri has been at Guantanamo since 2006, after spending years in at least one CIA black site, where he was tortured.
I spent some time at Fort Meade observing al-Nashiri’s previous hearing in February (and wrote here about the various complications), but was excited to see the proceedings in person. Well, as close to in-person as an NGO observer gets, which is a viewing room, with access to attorneys and reporters afterward. I was also excited to pick up some souvenirs from the Gitmo gift shop, which is a real thing.
This week al-Nashiri’s defense attorneys alleged that their emails and files were being tampered with, or even stolen. If true, this surveillance would be the latest in a long list of procedural problems and absurdities that the military commissions have encountered. It’s a little hard to maintain attorney-client confidentiality, let alone the veneer of a fair trial, when the other side has access to your communications and files. Defense attorneys have now resorted to writing on legal pads and their personal laptops to avoid any possible surveillance.
Judge Pohl has postponed the al-Nashiri hearing for two months, possibly in response to these allegations. This issue may also end up delaying the case against Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and the other 9/11 conspirators, which is the only other military commission trial taking place.
Every news item about these military commissions trials, their procedural problems, and mismanagement just get more and more ridiculous, especially when you consider just how smoothly terrorism cases go in federal courts, which have been unfairly maligned as the “weak” option in prosecuting terrorism.
And, more selfishly, I’ll have to wait two more months (or longer) to get a chance to buy a stuffed iguana with “Guantanamo Bay” stitched on the side.