Military Commission Judge Mulls Probe of Defense Claim
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
FORT MEADE, Md., April 15, 2014 The judge in the military commission proceedings for five suspects in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States called for a recess today to prepare an order allowing defense attorneys time to determine whether current or past defense team members were contacted by a government agency.
The proceedings began yesterday at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and a satellite feed here allows reporters unable to travel to Cuba to cover the case.
Court recessed today at about 11 a.m. when the judge, Army Col. James Pohl, said he will issue the order later today.
The order follows the defense team’s request this morning for an investigation after one of the defense attorneys disclosed yesterday that the FBI questioned a member of his team about the suspects.
Pohl told defense attorneys they have until 5 p.m. tomorrow to submit a request if they want the court to subpoena witnesses from agencies that have contacted past or existing defense members. Any information the defense teams find will be disclosed only to the lead defense counsel for each team, Pohl ordered.
“The lead counsel will use his or her professional judgment in bringing the issue to the judge,” explained Army Lt. Col. J. Todd Breasseale, a Defense Department spokesman.
The court order is to avoid a conflict with any nondisclosure agreement an agency might have required a member of the defense team to file, Breasseale said.
Pohl is considering a court investigation on agencies that contacted defense team members, based on requests from defense team members in today’s proceedings. Because of those requests, the judge told the defense teams to determine which witnesses they believe they need. As yet, there is no indication the judge will proceed with an investigation.
James Harrington, attorney for defendant Ramzi Binalshibh, told the court at the start of yesterday’s hearing that the FBI contacted one of his team members for information. He did not say why FBI agents recently questioned his defense team member, but said the individual handled classified evidence.
The four-day hearing was set to examine whether Binalshibh is mentally capable to stand trial. Court proceedings will resume April 17, Pohl said.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkAFPS)