Judge sets USS Cole trial date for next year at Guantánamo


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About Abd al Rahim al Nashiri

Born: Jan. 5, 1965 Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Captured: October 2002 United Arab Emirates

Profession: Told a 2007 military review that he was a merchant in Mecca who by 19 was a millionaire. CIA profile released by the White House in 2006 as al Qaeda Operations Chief in Arabian Peninsula at time of his capture

Paramilitary background: CIA profile said he fought in Chechnya and Tajikistan and trained at the Khaldan camp in Afghanistan in 1992.

Audio of U.S. military’s 2007 status hearing for Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, with white noise replacing description of torture at www.miamiherald.com/guantanamo

About the USS Cole

The 8,300-ton warship is based, or homeported, as the Navy calls it, in Norfolk, Va. It was commissioned, a formal ceremony, at Port Everglades in 1996.

The ship is named for Marine Sgt. Darrell S. Cole, a bugler turned machine-gunner, who was killed in the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II and posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

It was on a refueling stop in October 2000 when two al Qaida suicide bombers drove a bomb-laden ship into the side, killing themselves and ultimately claiming the lives of 17 Americans. They were:

Hull Maintenance Technician Second Class Kenneth Eugene Clodfelter, 21, of Mechanicsville, Va.

Electronics Technician Chief Petty Officer Richard Costelow, 35, of Morrisville, Pa.

Mess Management Specialist Seaman Lakeina Monique Francis, 19, of Woodleaf, N.C.

Information Systems Technician Timothy Lee Gauna, 21, of Rice, Texas

Signalman Seaman Cherone Louis Gunn, 22, of Rex, Ga.

Seaman James Rodrick McDaniels, 19, of Norfolk, Va.

Engineman Second Class Marc Ian Nieto, 24, of Fond du Lac, Wis.

Electronics Warfare Technician Second Class Ronald Scott Owens, 24, of Vero Beach, Fla.

Seaman Lakiba Nicole Palmer, 22, of San Diego, Calif.

Engineman Fireman Joshua Langdon Parlett, 19, of Churchville, Md.

Fireman Patrick Howard Roy, 19, of Keedysville, Md.

Electronics Warfare Technician First Class Kevin Shawn Rux, 30, of Portland, N.D.

Mess Management Specialist Third Class Ronchester Manangan Santiago, 22, Kingsville, Texas

Operations Specialist Second Class Timothy Lamont Saunders, 32, of Ringgold, Va.

Fireman Gary Graham Swenchonis Jr., 26, Rockport, Texas

Ensign Andrew Triplett, 31, of Macon, Miss.

Seaman Craig Bryan Wibberley, 19, of Williamsport, Md.


The military judge in Guantánamo’s USS Cole bombing case has set a provisional trial date of Sept. 2, 2014, according to a document posted on the war court website Monday.

Army Col. James Pohl, the judge, set the date in an order that lays out scheduling milestones toward the death-penalty tribunal of Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, 48, the once waterboarded Saudi captive accused of masterminding al-Qaida’s suicide bombing of the warship off the coast of Yemen in October 2000. Seventeen U.S. sailors were killed and dozens others were wounded.

The order notably instructs the government to release all discovery to defense teams by Sept. 20 of this year. It lays out a schedule for "purely legal pretrial issues and systemic challenges" by defense attorneys to challenge the integrity of the war court system that President George W. Bush created and President Barack Obama had reformed.

If the schedule holds, the Nashiri case would be the first death-penalty case by military commission heard at Guantánamo’s war court at Camp Justice. Pentagon prosecutors have sought a Sept. 22, 2014 trial date in the only other current capital case — against alleged mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four accused co-conspirators in the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

It is unclear whether either date will actually hold. Just last week, after defense attorneys in the 9/11 case complained about long-standing communications problems in their Pentagon email and computer system, Pohl said he would consider whether to abate those proceedings at the next hearing, Sept. 16.

Also under Pohl’s USS Cole case timetable the jury of military officers would be chosen starting June 30, 2014 at the war court, then disperse back to their bases around the world to away the actual trial.

In death penalty cases by military commissions at Guantánamo, a minimum of 12 members must be seated, and unanimous agreement is required to sentence the accused to death — in an execution system to be decided by the Secretary of Defense.

In a separate matter, a notation on the Nashiri docket says that Navy Cmdr. Brian Mizer has been assigned to the case as a Pentagon defense counsel.

Mizer, a reservist, defended Osama bin Laden’s driver, a Yemeni named Salim Hamdan during his war crimes trial in the summer of 2008. Although Hamdan was convicted of providing material support for terror, that conviction was later overturned on appeal.

Mizer has since then served as a federal public defender and returns to military service for the Nashiri case.

The next USS Cole case hearing is scheduled for Oct. 28.

Read more Guantánamo stories from the Miami Herald

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