US resumes 9/11 pre-trial Gitmo hearings

Pre-trial hearings for the five defendants accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks got back under way at Guantánamo Bay on Monday following a series of delays.

The hearings are supposed to resolve outstanding issues before the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others moves forward, which is not expected to occur for at least another year.

On Monday, Mohammed and the other suspects appeared in court, cooperating with their attorneys and the judge, according to media reports, a contrast from their protests at the last appearance that lasted 13 hours.

The Associated Press reported that at Monday’s hearing, the prosecution and defense argued over whether the defendants had to be in court for the trial, the first of numerous procedural issues that must be resolved before the trial begins.

"Our clients may believe that ... I don't want to be subjected to this procedure that transports me here, brings up memories, brings up emotions of things that happened to me," said Jim Harrington, who represents Ramzi bin al-Shibh, one of the four accused of helping to provide support to the 9/11 hijackers.

The most contentious pre-trial issue to be resolved is over a protective order in the court, which is designed to prevent classified information from being revealed during trial.

The American Civil Liberties Union and media organizations are challenging the 40-second delay on the hearings, as well as censorship of the defendants talking about their treatment at Guantánamo.

“According to the government, any statements by the defendants’ concerning their ‘exposure’ to the CIA’s detention and interrogation program are classified because they concern intelligence ‘sources, methods and activities’ of the U.S.,” the ACLU’s Hina Shamsi, who is in Guantánamo to argue the organization’s case, wrote in a blog post Monday.

“In its most recent filing, the government has effectively claimed that it owns and controls the defendants’ memories, 'thoughts and experiences' of government torture,” Shamsi said. “These chillingly Orwellian claims are legally untenable and morally abhorrent.”

Lawyers for the Guantánamo defendants are also protesting the rules, saying they will hobble their defense, according to the AP.

Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, the military commission’s chief prosecutor, argues that the security precautions are needed because the defendants have knowledge of classified information that could harm U.S. intelligence operations around the globe. "Our government's sources and methods are not an open book," Martins said, according to the AP.

Mohammed and the four defendants are facing the death penalty at the Guantánamo trial for their role in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Their trial was delayed after President Obama took office, when he sought to close Guantánamo and try Mohammed in federal court. But the Obama administration has abandoned that plan amid congressional resistance and resumed the military tribunal at Guantánamo.