US military judge upholds request to censor 9/11 conspirators’ testimony

US military judge upholds request to censor 9/11 conspirators’ testimony

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[JURIST] The chief US military judge for the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] 9/11 military commission trial has approved [order, PDF] the US government’s request for a protective order [ruling, PDF]. The order, made public Wednesday, effectively blocks the public’s access to accused 9/11 [JURIST backgrounder] conspirators’ testimony regarding the alleged use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” imprisonment and torture methods by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website]. The decision upholds the continued use of a delayed audio feed of the proceedings, which allows an intelligence officer to censor any reference to “classified” material as it arises during testimony. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website], backed by a host of prominent media organizations, filed a motion [JURIST report] in May and argued in October that this practice violates the First Amendment [transcripts 1 & 2, PDF] and that the public has a constitutional right to access information about the operation of the government. According to the ACLU, Army Col. James Pohl’s decision does not adequately address clear First Amendment issues [press release], and the organization is assessing its options. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty for all five accused 9/11 conspirators.

In April Pohl assigned himself [JURIST report] to preside over the tribunals of the five alleged plotters of the 9/11 terror attacks, scheduling a hearing for May 5. Earlier in April the Department of Defense (DOD) referred charges [JURIST report] to Pohl against the five accused 9/11 plotters. The DOD announced last year that it had sworn charges against the five men [JURIST report]. In April 2011 US Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the four others would be tried by a military commission [JURIST report] after the Obama administration abandoned attempts to have the 9/11 suspects tried in civilian courts. Holder had wanted the accused be tried before a federal civilian court but referred the cases to the DOD after Congress imposed a series of restrictions [JURIST reports] barring the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the US.