Gitmo lawyers want access to classified Camp 7 detention facility

Attorneys for Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, Walid Bin Attash and Ramzi Binalshibh requested Army Judge Col. James Pohl allow them to stay at the facility, known as Camp 7, with their clients for 48 hours. 

The 48-hour request will allow defense teams to properly assess the living conditions being experienced by their clients, LCDR Kevin Bogucki, Binalshibh's defense attorney argued before the tribunal on Tuesday. 

U.S. prosecutor Army Maj. Robert McGovern argued against the defense's request, instead offering to provide a two-hour guided tour of the classified detention site to the defense teams. 

The visit would take place during the day, and members of the defense team would not be allowed to communicate with their clients during the visit, McGovern said. 

If Pohl grants permission for the visit, the defense attorneys will be the first people outside the U.S. military and the International Red Cross to visit the secretive Camp 7 — the prison inside a prison where the 9/11 defendants and other high-value detainees are housed at Guantanámo. 

Members of the international human rights organization were given special access to the compound in 2009. 

Their subsequent report on the living conditions inside Camp 7 has yet to be released publicly, with U.S. government officials treating the details of the report as classified. 

Defense attorneys here have also requested the report's release as part of the visit request. 

Kevin Nevin, lead defense attorney for Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, argued on Tuesday that it was vital for the defense teams to get an accurate picture of the conditions at Camp 7, particularly in light of the alleged torture suffered by Mohammad and the other co-conspirators prior to being shipped here. 

Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, lead defense attorney for Mustafa al Hawsawi, told Pohl he gained information "on a good faith basis" about the conditions and treatment of his client inside Camp 7. 

After Tuesday's hearing, Ruiz told reporters the information on the facilities' operations came from interviews with al Hawsawi. 

He also requested visits to other detention facilities located on Guanatanamo where al Hawsawi or other high-value detainees where housed prior to being sent to Camp 7. 

"I have and see exactly what goes on during the night, during sleeping cycles and waking cycles, [changing] guard shift [and] normal type of procedures that we're not able to see perhaps during the normal course of the day," Ruiz told Pohl in open court. 

Defense lawyers need "as much access as we can" to the  detainee prison to ensure their client's well-being, as well as ensure their treatment does not affect the defense's case, Bogucki added.

"There are some things at the [Camp 7] facility that were not made to be readily apparent," he said.   

Bogucki and other attorneys balked at the prosecution's proposal for a two-hour site visit, likening the proposed tour riding the "Jungle Cruise" ride at Disneyland. 

The proposed tour, according to Bogucki, would be "for the purposes of show only" just so U.S. prosecutors could say they complied with the defense's request. 

"To be essentially shuttled through on a guided tour of the detention facility is entirely unlikely to reveal any kind of meaningful evidence," according to Bogucki.  

In response, McGovern argued the logistics involved in getting additional security into the Camp 7 during a 48-hour visit would be a tremendous strain on military security units at the camp.

The two-hour site visit, he added, would meet the defense's demand to view the detention center while maintaining security for the attorneys, guards and prisoners. 

"They've asked for a confinement visit and we're trying to give them a confinement visit in the safest way possible," he added. 

However, U.S. military guards have had no problem allowing him and other defense attorneys to meet privately with their clients, without sacrificing security, Pohl noted. 

"It falls in the difficult-but-not-impossible category," Pohl said of the defense's request. "And I don't see anything in [the government's] response that says that's impossible logistically, other than [they] don't want to do it."