All day long, Mohammed refused to answer the judges questions. And, with one exception, his four alleged collaborators fell in right behind him. Some appeared to be reading the Koran rather than responding to the judges questions.
The Heritage Foundations Cully Stimson, a longtime war-court observer and reserve Navy judge, described it as coordinated chaos. Mohammed, he said in an exchange via Twitter, wants to control the courtroom.
But Mohammeds demeanor was in dramatic contrast to his appearance at the previous arraignment, June 5, 2008, in the case that was started under President George W. Bush but was withdrawn by Obama while he reformed the military commissions with Congress.
Four years ago, the self-described architect of the Sept. 11 attacks disrupted the proceedings by reciting Koran verses aloud and declaring that he welcomed the death penalty.
This is what I wish to be martyred, he told the first judge on the earlier case, a Marine colonel.
That occurred less than two years after Mohammeds arrival at Guantánamo from more than three years of custody in secret CIA prisons, during which he was subjected to 183 rounds of waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation techniques.
In this court appearance, the only verbal outburst came from Bin al Shibh, who blurted at one point that the prison camp leadership was just like Moammar Gadhafi, the slain Libyan dictator.
When the judge tried to hush Bin al Shibh, explaining the accused would be given a chance to speak later, the Yemeni replied: Maybe they are going to kill us and say that we are committing suicide.
Defense lawyers said, alternately, that the men were protesting prison camp interference in the attorney-client relationship, something that happened that morning involving Bin Attashs prosthetic leg during his transfer from his cell to the war court, being strip-searched before arriving at the court complex Saturday and their treatment in years of CIA custody prior to their September 2006 arrival at Guantánamo.
These men have been mistreated, declared Pentagon-paid defense counsel Cheryl Bormann, Bin Attashs attorney, a civilian who specializes in death-penalty cases.
Bormann stunned spectators by turning up at the compound in a black abaya, cloaking her from head to toe covering her hair, leaving only her face showing.
With the exception of Bin al Shibhs outburst, the men adopted looks of disinterest throughout the hearing. During recesses, they spoke animatedly between themselves and across the five rows they occupied in the courtroom, at times laughing and smiling.
For a while, Mohammeds nephew, Ammar al Baluchi, leafed through a copy of The Economist. He handed it back to Mustafa al-Hawsawi, sitting in the defendants row behind him during a recess. The nephew, a Pakistani, and Hawsawi, a Saudi, are accused in the charge sheets of wiring money to the Sept. 11 hijackers.
Pohl questioned bin Attashs military attorney, Air Force Capt. Michael Schwartz, about whether bin Attash would sit peacefully if the restraints were removed. Midway through the morning, the judge instructed him to be released. He sat for the rest of the morning in an ordinary court chair, but didnt appear to be following the proceedings.
At issue early in the hearing was whether the accused 9/11 conspirators would accept their Pentagon-paid defense counsel, a key preliminary step to holding an arraignment. The defense lawyers sought, first, to argue motions at the court alleging inadequate defense resources, prison camp interference in the attorney-client relationship and restrictive conditions imposed on their legal duties.
Pohl would have none of it. He insisted that the issue of appointment of counsel come first.
Then, one by one, the judge read a script to each of the accused, spelling out each mans right to a Pentagon-paid legal team. Pohl periodically asked each of the men whether he understood what was being said.
None replied, so he noted over and over again for the record, accused refuses to answer.
And, then one by one, the judge unilaterally appointed their Pentagon-paid attorneys to defend them.