The trial of five alleged 9/11 co-conspirators resumed Tuesday in Guantanamo.
The defendants include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-professed mastermind behind the attacks.
He and the others face 2,976 counts of murder.
The trial is taking the form of a ‘special tribunal for wartime offenses,’ a unique blend of civilian trial and military court martial.
The proceedings have been dogged with problems, though.
Proceedings ground to a halt on Monday as defense attorneys challenged the recording systems in the court-room, amid concerns that mics could pick up confidential conversations between attorneys and their clients.
Read the Transcript
The text below is a phonetic transcript of a radio story broadcast by PRI’s THE WORLD. It has been created on deadline by a contractor for PRI. The transcript is included here to facilitate internet searches for audio content. Please report any transcribing errors to firstname.lastname@example.org. This transcript may not be in its final form, and it may be updated. Please be aware that the authoritative record of material distributed by PRI’s THE WORLD is the program audio.
Marco Werman: Plenty of intrigue meanwhile in Guantanamo where the trial of the five alleged 9/11 coconspirators resumed today. The defendants include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self professed mastermind behind the attacks. He and the others face 2,976 counts of murder. The trial has taken the form of a special tribunal for wartime offenses, a unique blend of civilian trial and military court martial. The proceedings have been dogged with problems though. Reporter Arun Rath is in Guantanamo covering the trial for both PBS Frontline and The World. Proceedings ground to a halt yesterday, Arun, over concerns of attorney client confidentiality. Tell us what happened.
Arun Rath: Yeah, that’s the big issue up for the court right now. There’s an emergency defense motion to remove what they call sustained barriers to attorney-client communication and prohibit any electronic monitoring. As a matter of call, we talked a couple of weeks ago when this mysterious sensor cutoff the feed from the courtroom and that’s sort of what set all this in motion. Nobody apparently, aside from the prosecution or government, had an idea that there was another entity listening outside. They called it an original classification authority, presuming it might be the CIA because they would be the ones involved in this material. But when that happened the defense kind of got very concerned about that and wanted to find out who else was listening and where they were listening, and if they were being listened to not just inside the courtroom, but also when they were talking with their clients, for instance, in their holding cells outside the court. There’s an extensive recording system in the courtroom, a lot of microphones, a lot of very sensitive microphones. And the fear is even when they’re pressing their mute button they’re being heard and they can be recorded by this external authority and that therefore their confidential conversations with their clients are being monitored.
Werman: Now it’s interesting, you and other observers have to watch the proceedings from behind soundproof glass and you hear the proceedings with a 40-second delay. That’s gotta be kind of disorienting. Why did they do that?
Rath: The 40-second delay is again to prevent the spillage of classified information, so the idea is the second anybody starts to say anything that’s sensitive, somebody hits the button and we don’t hear any of that.
Werman: Can you see the defendants right now, Arun?
Rath: Yeah, we’re working in the media center right now. On occasion I do, we have a lottery to get into the courtroom.
Werman: And what is it like to look upon the face of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self professed mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks?
Rath: You know, it’s almost you know, seeing him smiling, and talking and engaged, it’s clear that he’s very comfortable in his own skin. You know, he’s okay with what he’s done. He went on a rant last October. you know, where he went off about how the United States basically deserved what they got and you know, he’s, it’s something about seeing the casualness of the man. Maybe that old line of the banality of evil because he’s just–in a way he wasn’t as big as I expected him to be. He’s kind of short. He’s put on some weight here and he’s grown this beard to look a little bit more devout. I mean that’s something about it that he could just be somebody’s uncle and it’s just that you know, all this horrendous, hateful stuff that’s attached to him.
Werman: Who else is there in the gallery? Is it just journalists and human rights activists or are there any members of the public, relatives of the victims, for example?
Rath: Yes, aside from journalists and NGO representatives the only people that are allowed in are family members, victim family members from the 9/11 attacks. And this time there are only six that came down. There are usually 10, but there were several that got stuck in New York as a result of the blizzard last week.
Werman: Now, Guantanamo is a military base and prison and we all have a sense of what that implies, and yet we’re talking Cuba, we’re talking the tropics. I mean there are beautiful sunsets there. That’s gotta be kind of incongruous.
Rath: It’s very strange, Marco. I can say because there have been a lot of delays in the court and times when they just had to call things off for the day because of these confusions they’ve had, there’s been time when we’ve had a lot of time to kill around here and so I’ve swam in I think the most beautiful beach I’ve ever been to in my life. It’s really gorgeous here and it’s like you said, it’s very surreal because we’re basically a bay you know, in the Caribbean facing Jamaica, a beautiful, crystal blue water, coral reefs, amazing wildlife everywhere. There’s basically a wildlife preserve, so you see iguanas, and banana rats and all sorts of interesting wildlife. And again, it’s a regular, it’s a Navy base, so there are people here with families. There’s a soccer field, a football field, a McDonald’s, KFC, all that stuff. And then you know, in this corner of the island Constantan wire, and prisons and this court complex.
Werman: Reporter Arun Rath in Guantanamo for PBS Frontline and The World. Thank you very much.
Rath: Thanks, Marco.
Copyright ©2012 PRI’s THE WORLD. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to PRI’s THE WORLD. This transcript may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without prior written permission. For further information, please email The World’s Permissions Coordinator at email@example.com.