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Military tribunal finds CIA techniques irrelevant to detainee competency hearing

[JURIST] A military tribunal has ruled that lawyers for accused 9/11 co-conspirator Ramzi bin al-Shibh will not be made aware of what interrogation techniques were used on him by the CIA prior to his transfer to Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives], according to a Monday report [text] by the Miami Herald. Bin al-Shibh's military defense lawyer, Navy Commander Suzanne Lachelier, had sought to learn the specifics of his interrogations in advance of a September competency hearing. Lachelier argued that interrogation details were relevant to determining whether bin al-Shibh suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) [NIMH backgrounder] or a permanent psychological disability, which would in turn affect his competency to stand trial. However, presiding judge Army Colonel Stephen Henley [DOD biography, PDF] found on August 6 that the details of bin al-Shibh's interrogation were not relevant to determining his current mental competency but would risk disclosure of classified information. Henley said that the Supreme Court's 2006 decision in Boumediene v. Bush [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] required him to weigh the national security challenge invoked by prosecutors against bin al-Shibh's right to challenge evidence against him.

Last month, military prosecutors sought to delay [JURIST report] the cases against three terrorism suspects while the US government revises the system used to try them, fearing that changes made to the trial structure would require re-hearing of or invalidate entire proceedings. The Pentagon approved death penalty charges against bin al-Shibh and four other suspects in May, and they were arraigned [JURIST reports] in June. In February, CIA Director Michael Hayden publicly acknowledged [JURIST report] that fellow co-conspirator Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] had been subjected to waterboarding [JURIST news archive] during interrogation. In January, Susan Crawford [official profile, PDF; JURIST news archive], the tribunal's convening authority, said in an interview with the Washington Post that torture tactics were used [article text; JURIST report] in the interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani [JURIST news archive], a suspect held at Guantanamo under allegations of connections to the 9/11 attacks. Crawford made the statement after nearly two years of reviewing Guantanamo Bay practices as well as the strength of legal cases against detainees.

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