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Guantanamo Detainee Defense Attorneys Accuse FBI of Turning 9/11 Defense Team Member into Confidential Informant

The FBI may have turned a  defense security officer assigned to the team representing Ramzi bin al Shibh  into a “confidential informant”

Defense attorneys for Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, Walid Muhammad Salih Bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi suspect the FBI may have turned a  defense security officer assigned to the team representing Ramzi bin al Shibh  into a “confidential informant.”

An emergency motion filed under seal alleged, “as part of its litigation strategy,” the government has “created what appears to be a confidential informant relationship with a member of Mr. bin al Shibh’s defense team, and interrogated him about the activities of all defense teams.”

There have been multiple examples where the United States government has directly targeted and undermined defense attorneys representing the five men imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, who are suspected of being involved in the September 11th attacks and are on trial before the Guantanamo military commission.

Judge Col. James Pohl discovered the CIA had the ability to censor legal proceedings without his knowledge whenever the agency thought evidence related to torture might be shared in open court. Guantanamo guards have seized legal documents from the men, which were already stamped, cleared and approved for defendants. Meeting facilities attorneys used were found to have been bugged with listening devices the FBI had installed.

One section of the motion was disclosed to  Miami Herald journalist Carol Rosenberg.   “The implications of this intrusion into the defense camp are staggering.” she says. “The most immediate implication, however, is that all defense teams have a potential conflict of interest between their loyalty to their clients and their interest in demonstrating their innocence to FBI investigators.”

The defense security officer for bin al Shibh was reportedly questioned by FBI agents and asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement. And, although the military claims it doesn’t consider the publication a “leak,” the “confidential informant relationship” was allegedly developed as part of an investigation into news organizations.

On March 18, Rosenberg reported that a “war court prosecutor” asked the judge to investigate how Huffington Post and British television station, Channel 4, obtained “36 pages of computer printout commentary” that was published in January. The prosecutor encouraged the judge to “inquire of the defense as to how this letter was released, and to take action to ensure that the commission process cannot be used to inappropriately disseminate propaganda.”

By “propaganda,” the government essentially means any information about how Mohammed or any of the other 9/11 suspects might rationalize their alleged role in the deaths of thousands of people. The Huffington Post isn’t publishing “propaganda” by quoting Mohammed’s writings; they are not using the material to argue his innocence but to inform the public of what drove him to allegedly play a role in the attacks.

The Washington Post reported that the defense security officer was visited by the FBI on April 6 at his home, not at Guantanamo Bay. The officer, a contractor who works for SRA International Inc., which is based in Fairfax, Virginia, informed his employer of the visit.

This development effectively stalled a hearing that was to be held to determine whether bin al Shibh was mentally fit to stand trial. Prosecutors requested a competency hearing after he complained about “sleep deprivation tactics” at a secret prison camp where he has been held.

According to Rosenberg, “the so-called competency hearing” didn’t happen today. “Instead, the prosecution sought a closed hearing with just the judge, excluding the defense. The defense asked the judge to abate the proceedings and order his own investigation of whether the FBI had breached attorney-client confidentiality.”

The judge “agreed to meet unilaterally with prosecutors on a competency hearing question” and it was not apparent whether the there would be an investigation into the FBI breaching “attorney-client confidentiality.”

Attorney-client privilege issues have been ongoing for years now. In December 2011, Rear Admiral David Woods issued an order with new rules for inspecting communications between Guantanamo prisoners and their lawyers.

As the Associated Press reported, the defense attorneys for the five 9/11 suspects objected to the proposal to have a “privilege team,” which “would include Defense Department and law enforcement officials [that] would conduct a security review of all communications to the prisoners.” The lawyers argued such review was “unnecessary” because they “all have security clearances and know not to release classified information. The procedure proposed was also “overly intrusive,” as it would be impossible to ensure that officials did not share information with prosecutors or other government agencies.

Not only does it seem defense lawyers are having difficulty providing zealous and effective counsel to defendants, as is their job, but the government is actively engaged in espionage to an extent that shows US intelligence agencies will not permit these men to be given a fair, transparent and just trial.

The 9/11 suspects were arraigned on June 5, 2008. It has been almost six years and the military has yet to convict and sentence either of these men, a reality that must be deeply aggravating to family members of those killed in the attacks.

Everything seems to sputter along as prosecutors and the judge resolutely try to create what artist Molly Crabapple (who has sketched Mohammed) might call the “theater of justice.” Yet, with each instance of improper intrusion into the legal process by the national security state, defense attorneys bring the show to a halt. They remind the world there is a reliable federal civilian court process, which could be used to efficiently prosecute terrorism suspects detained at Guantanamo. But President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder ultimately chose to cave to fear and hysteria and let the military continue to ineptly develop and corruptly execute their own system for prosecutions.

Photo Creative Commons-licensed image from Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Joe Gratz, Paul Keller, Hkuchera

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."