So here I am at Fort Meade, MD with the unbiased media. That’s one of their cars in the parking lot when we met up with the ‘splody smelling dogs. Just thought I’d let you know that there might be a bias in the reportage. Not from me, though. The trial starts at 9AM, so here’s your program for the fun.
The defendants are Kahlid Sheik Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Sakith Mubarak Bin ‘Attash, Ramzi Binai Shibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi. The lead prosecutors are General Mark Martins (DoD), Edward Ryan (DoJ) and Robert Swann (DoD).
There’s another site here on Fort Meade for CCTV broadcast from Guantanamo for 9-11 victims’ family members. The media doesn’t have access to them (rightfully) until after the broadcast and then both groups are out of the control of DoD. There are also ten family members in Guantanamo watching the trial through one-way glass who were picked by lottery.
The way I plan to do this live blog is like the way I did Winter Soldier, continually update this post once the trial begins. All you have to do is hit F5 to refresh the post. That’s so interested bloggers can just post this link for their readers.
The DoD PAO promises us “high adventure” today, so stand by for the fun.
9:19am; the trial is delayed because not all of the detainees have arrived from their five-star accommodations yet. Their butlers probably didn’t have their tuxes laid out yet, or their Belgian Waffles with whipped cream were cold and had to be reheated. I’m just speculating, of course.
9:24: Called to order. Apparently the defense (Navy JAG) for Ali Abdul Aziz Ali is trying to end his military career because he keeps interrupting the procedure by complaining that Ali wasn’t properly served for this trial.
The judge, U.S. Army Col. James L. Pohl is the guy who appoints judges, but he couldn’t find anyone willing to accept the job so he appointed himself.
9:39am; The discussion now is about the detainees’ attire – one wasn’t allowed to wear the head covering and a vest that his lawyers brought him, so that’s the “high adventure” of this moment.
9:41; KSM’s attorney advises the judge that KSM declines to answer when questioned by the judge because KSM is “concerned that proceedings aren’t fair”. So the judge asked KSM’s attorney if KSM’s ear phones were working, but the attorney didn’t know. So, KSM took his ear phones out completely (for the record, they get a translation of the proceedings through the earphones)
9:53; the judge is trying to find out if all five of the defendants can hear the proceedings. Now he’s talking to one of the counsels (an AF JAG) about how the defendant wont answer until the court removes his “uncomfortable” restraints. He’s the only one in restraints because he wasn’t complying with guards because he didn’t want to go to court. The judge has said that he’ll remove the restraints if the detainee will agree to comport himself civilly – of course, he’s not answering, so he remains in restraints.
10:00; The restrained detainee (Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin Attash) has agreed to behave himself so they’re removing his restraints and then he dropped down into prayer (without his headphones).
10:04am: Now they’re discussing (KSM’s attorney, David Nevin) is complaining that he can’t use the word “torture” and somehow that’s related to KSM not wanting to wear the earphones (yes, we’re still discussing earphones).
10:12am: The prosecution recommends a concurrent translation be provided over loud speakers since the detainees won’t wear their earphones. Apparently, KSM’s attorney says that they’re protesting the way they were all treated this morning.
10:14 am: So that was fast, we’re getting a concurrent translation to Arabic. I guess the prosecution anticipated the problem. Good job, General.
10:21am: KSM’s attorney is complaining that he can’t “advocate for my client when I have to speak like a robot” about the concurrent translation. So I guess we can just have the trial in Arabic. Judge Pohl responds, and I’ll roughly translate his answer to infantryman language; Tough shit, it doesn’t matter.
10:28am: Now someone else is complaining that the judge said “it doesn’t matter”. But the judge hasn’t even had the opportunity to get the detainees to name their lawyers, so yeah, it really doesn’t matter if the lawyers have to talk funny. But, this woman
lawyer advocate lawyer for the detainees, [Editor Note: it's Cheryl Bormann]who is wearing a burka (or a hijab – it covers her whole body down to the floor except her face – so you tell me), says that the court should first address the “issues” of the detainees’ treatment in recent months, which is apparently what the detainees are protesting this morning by not listening to the proceedings against them.
10:36am: The judge responds that until the detainees respond as to whether they even want to be represented or not, the lawyer have no right to advocate for their treatment.
10:38am: The judge asks the detainees if they understand their rights as to counsel, none are answering the judge, so he appoints lawyers to them.
10:51 am: So while the judge is asking them questions, the detainees are doodling and reading the Koran (I assume) as if they’re not part of the trial instead of the subjects of the trial. So this is going to take a while.
11:22am: Well, that’s it for the morning, now we’re on a linch break. Where’s my chicken club sandwich?
11:39am: Ok, burka woman is back and she’s asking that all women in the courtroom be forced by the court to “dress appropriately” so the defendants won’t commit sins. She even got chuckles from the media-types here at Fort Meade and exclamations from the women in this room of “Oh, my God”.
11:45 am: KSM’s attorney is asking for a list of names of the people who are sitting on the prosecutor’s side of the room because “if there are some shadowy people” it would upset his client.
12:00; Walid Salih just interrupted the proceedings yammering something about how the Americans are just intent on killing the defendants like we did Qaddafi. So the judge told him to behave and, surprisingly, he did.
Wait! Burka woman is back. Stand by. She says she’s a lawyer and she’s presented her quals to the court. I’m guessing she’s Cheryl Bormann, counsel for Walid Salih.
12:25 PM; Yeah, all of the lawyers are introducing themselves to Judge Pohl and their qualifications so they can root out any “shadowy figures”. Just so you know each of the five defendants have two military and a civilian lawyer – so that’s fifteen people right there introducing themselves to the judge. So this is just useless time wasting bullshit by the defense team.
12:40; OK, they’re on break until 1340 hrs. Oh, good, AFN commercials. I guess nothing has changed.
Scrolling around the internet, I see that the Associated Press has a reporter in the pool at Guantanamo, so you can compare how they’re covering to this little blogger guy.
1:56 PM: Back in session and they’re complaining that the speakers in the courtroom aren’t all working. So let’s waste some time discussing that.
Bormann (Burka woman) is complaining that she didn’t get enough time for lunch because it takes guards so long to remove the defendants at the break. This trial won’t be over before the end of the year if we’re going to discuss every damn bit of minutiae like lunch breaks.
2:12 PM: Nevin (KSM’s counsel) is questioning Judge Pohl’s contact with the previous judge of the Military Commission. Judge Pohl says he hasn’t had any contact with her since the mid-90s. Now Judge Pohl is explaining the process by which he was appointed.
12:37 PM: Nevins is still questioning the judge and trying to get him to disqualify himself with questions about legal courses he’s taken and books he’s read since 9-11. His questions are specifically about enhanced interrogation and torture. The judge answered “Mitigation is in the eye of the defense counsel”. That if something the defense believes something mitigates his client’s offenses, it’s up to the counsel to argue tht.
When asked if he belongs to any clubs or organizations, Judge Pohl answered “just the United States Army”.
Nevins brought up the judge’s religious affiliations (Nevins contends that religion will be part of the trial), the judge refused to answer.
Nevins asked the judge if he knew any Muslims, Pohl answered that it was irrelevant and refused to answer.
2:45 pm: Continuing his questions, Nevin asked Pohl if he had contacts with either the Bush or Obama Administration, Pohl answered “no”.
When asked where he was on 9-11, Pohl answered Fort Bragg, NC.
2:51 PM: Pohl is being asked about his service in the war at Afghanistan and Iraq and he was a circuit judge in Germany who made the trip as a judge to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait and witnessed some indirect fire.
He knew a few people who were killed in the war, but claims that won’t affect his ability to judge this case. Nevins asked how Pohl thinks he can be impartial in the event of the deaths of his acquaintances. Pohl said the same as in any case. pressed on the question, “My job is to run a air trial for all parties”.
Personally, I would have punched Nevins in the throat by now. This judge has infinite patience.
2:57 PM; Nevins asked Pohl if he thought this is an appropriate forum for the trial. Pohl answered that Military Tribunals were formed by Congress, and so, Nevins will have the opportunity during the trial to question the authority of the Tribunal.
3:02 PM; Nevins asked Pohl if some nebulous writers somewhere who said that Pohl’s trial in the Abu Gahraib case disregarded the participation of higher officers or political influences in that case. Pohl responded that he is not going to defend himself against every speculation in the vast media of his past performance.
3:06 PM; Nevins is complaining because he can’t discuss torture with his client or his client’s history in jihadist activity. Pohl responded that that subject is “not of great import” to the case.
3:12 PM; Nevins’ final question was Judge Pohl’s retirement date. The judge said when he reaches mandatory retirement.
3:21 PM: Burka woman (Bormann) asks Pohl if he would agree that he should be a an expert on applicable laws in this case, and he replied ‘yes’ and then “have you (Judge Pohl) ever practiced law in a civilian court”, “no” “have you ever judged a case that involved more than 10,000 pages of discovery?” “probably not”. “How about more than 20,000 pages of discovery” “It’s not an appropriate question”. “Have you ever judged a case with more than one defendant?” He answered that it’s not relevant.
So she goes and declares that he doesn’t have the expertise to judge the case. Without strangling her, he told her to go on to the next question.
An alarm went off in the courtroom, our handlers tell us that it was because someone took a cell phone into the courtroom and then they resumed grilling the judge.
3:35 PM; Now she’s asking him how many trials he’s presided over that didn’t involve service members. He says three that “never went to adjournment”
3:37 PM: “How many trials have you presided over when the defendants were Muslims?” “None that I know of.”
3:39 PM; Pohl recommended that Hasan face the death penalty. Any arguments from my folks? “My reasoning is on the public record, so I’m not going to sit here and answer questions that are on the public record.”
3:57 PM; Recess in the prosecution of Judge Pohl for prayer time until 1645.
4:26 PM: Stand by, I may have a family member’s perspective on the trial in few minutes, he’s bringing me some coffee.
4:42 PM: I just talked with a family member of a victim who said “The terrorists are better behaved than their lawyers” He went on to say this illustrates why they fought so hard to keep the trial out of the federal courts because of the circus the lawyers have made out of it so for. One of our handlers said that the main reason the lawyers are showboating is for the media coverage. I told him that might work against them because the media in this room is losing interest. Like I said in the comments, about half of them have left because they were worn down by the bullshit. My sense is that the media will be less interested if this is the boring crap the media will have to sit through at the trial. But, then I’m no journalist, or a lawyer for that matter, so what do I know?
4:52 PM; So now the judge is being questioned by Air Force Major Sterling Thomas (counsel for Ali Abdul Aziz Ali) how the judge can be fair if he reads the news everyday, the judge said the question isn’t relevant. Major Thomas then asked him if he thinks the system (the tribunal system) is broken in this case. The judge in essence that he will do his duty.
“Have you or any of your staff had contact with JTS GTMO staff?”
“I certainly haven’t discussed the case with any of them.” “The CIA?” “No.”
5:04 PM; James Harrington (counsel for Ramzi Bin Shibh) [one of the detainees is interfering with the microphone's reception with a necklace and admonished] says he objects to the entire tribunal.
5:10 PM; Harrington is questioning the judges relationship before this trial with the prosecution, and the judge denies any relationship with any of the team.
5:12 PM; Now being asked about his qualification under ABA standards for a judge in a capital case, he replies in the affirmative.
5:14 PM; now his reading habits are being questioned.
5:17 PM; Ali Abdul Aziz Ali’s counsel James Connell; stutters “Does your oath have an impact on your day-to-day activities?” Now they’re just making shit up to get more time in front of the cameras.
5:31 PM; Navy CMDR Walter Ruiz – the last one – is asking questions about his assignment to be the guy who selects judges.
As some background on Judge Pohl, I talked to one of our handlers who considers Judge Pohl his mentor. He said that Pohl is one of the most patient people he’s ever met. That is obvious by this interrogatory. The person I talked to said that whenever he had a sticky question, Pohl was the first person he’d call.
5:50 PM; Ruiz asks Pohl if he suffered any significant loss in the stock market as a result of 9-11. The judge answered that he didn’t know. “I do not consider myself a victim in any way shape or form as a result of 9-11, other than the fact that I’m an America.”
Ruiz; “So you do consider yourself a victim.”
Pohl: ” I was saddened by the things that I saw that day, like I was saddened by what I saw after the tsunami in Japan.”
Ruiz continues that line of questioning and asking about victims of bombings in Afghanistan.
“I don’t consider myself a victim of 9-11. I saw things that saddened me”
Ruiz is trying to tie Pohl’s comment about being an American to the contention that he’s a victim of 9-11. Utter drivel. Ruiz is a crybaby, servicemember or not.
5:58 PM; So, looking around the room, almost everyone is on Facebook. I think the lawyers have lost the media war.
6:04 PM; Now somehow Pohl’s retirement plan is being questioned, Pohl says he has no plans to retire.
6:09 PM; Ruiz is done, but for some reason Nevins has some more shit to say. Apparently, they’re reserving their challenge to Pohl as the judge in this case. All of the slimy little bastards concur.
6:12 PM; Nevins complains that he’s an ignorant turd and doesn’t understand what is “classified information”. More specifically, he says that classified information in this trial differs from the general definition as outlined by Executive Orders.
6:16 PM; Connell whines that he doesn’t know the appropriate cover sheet for his client’s statements.
6:25 PM; The government read the charges; Conspiracy, Attacking civilians, attacking civilian property, murder, interfering with the operation of an aircraft, and terrorism.
6:32 PM; The government says they can be ready for trial on August 1st, the defense lawyers say they concur but we’re waiting for Ruiz to consult with his client.
6:38 PM; Pohl tells the defense that the next session will be June 12 to entertain all motions in the trial.
6:43 PM; Ruiz complains that it’s not enough time for him to prepare.
6:45 PM; Nevins is upset that they’re not discussing alternative dates. I think Nevins is on the judge’s last nerve.
6:58 PM; Apparently, Bormann (burka woman) sits in the back of the room and she’s the only counsel who doesn’t sit at the table with her client, probably in deference to Islamic traditions. I just thought I’d mention that.
But anyway, she’s upset that her client was brought to trial in restraints because he didn’t want to come to the courtroom – she wants the judge to issue an order to not force her client to come to trial. [Someone was just told by the judge to put their shirt back on but I can't see who that was]. She’s worried about her client’s safety.
6:59: Nevins is upset that his client was strip searched before being brought to court and it “inflames the situation”. “The situation” being the little terrorists have attitude problems.
7:12 PM; They called another prayer break until 8pm, but, I’m closing up shop and going home. There’ll probably be a lot of drama now, cuz that’s the way my luck goes, but it’s 2 1/2 hours to get home and it’s late. Sorry. Out here.