9/11 TRIAL

Judge: No sleepover but lawyers can spend 12 hours in Guantánamo’s secret prison



They can’t sleep over, but a judge has ordered the military to let defense attorneys spend 12 hours inside the secret prison at Guantánamo that houses alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his accused co-conspirators, attorneys said Thursday.

Prisoners like Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times in CIA custody, are kept in a clandestine compound called Camp 7 guarded by an elite unit called Task Force Platinum.

Defense lawyers wanted a two-night stay to assess conditions of confinement in the place where the Pentagon holds the five men accused of plotting the worst terror attack on U.S. soil.

In the military, harsh pre-trial conditions can create what lawyers call a mitigating factor as they argue against these men getting the death penalty if they are convicted. These defense lawyers say their clients were tortured in U.S. custody, and the Pentagon has lost the moral authority to execute them.

Prosecutors had proposed a two-hour tour that sounded like those given to members of Congress .

But Judge James Pohl, an Army colonel, ruled Tuesday that a 12-hour stay between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. would be sufficient.

Defense teams for each of the accused would be taken to the secret site, separately, and could speak to their client plus whomever the military designates as their escort. No more than three members of each team could go on the visit, the judge ruled, leaving it up to the lawyers to decide whether to use up one slot with a Pentagon-paid translator or mitigation expert.

Pohl refused their request to interview guards.

The ruling itself was still under seal at the war court Thursday but two attorneys who had seen the six-page ruling described its content.

Defense teams will be allowed to take pictures and make sketches, diagrams and notes during their visit, the judge ordered. But they must submit those materials for an intelligence inspection to determine which part would be stamped Top Secret.

Either way, the judge forbade prosecutors from looking at it, as protected attorney-client work product.

Pohl issued the order a week after Camp 7 prison camp guards searched the cells of the Sept. 11 prisoners and seized a range of materials from a photo of the Grand Mosque in Mecca to a former FBI agent’s memoirs to toilet paper with English words scrawled on it. The guards also confiscated some captives’ privileged attorney-client documents, which a prison camp lawyer said were reviewed for appropriate markings and would be returned.

Read more Guantánamo stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category