Legal proceedings against five Guantánamo Bay prisoners charged in the Sept. 11 attack should go forward, a military judge ruled Tuesday, rejecting a bid to put the case on hold until the Pentagon resolves computer network security concerns.
Army Col. James Pohl said the steps announced by Pentagon officials to address concerns raised by the defense are adequate to keep pretrial hearings moving for the five prisoners charged with orchestrating the terrorist attack.
The defendants are facing trial by military commission at the U.S. base in Cuba on charges that include nearly 3,000 counts of murder, terrorism and hijacking for their alleged roles planning and aiding the worst terror attack on U.S. soil. They face the death penalty if convicted.
Pohl heard three days of testimony in August at Guantánamo about security fears that prompted defense lawyers to stop using government email and servers for confidential legal work. Lawyers said data disappeared, emails went astray or were improperly sent to the prosecution, and private legal research was subject to monitoring.
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Prosecutors said the concerns were overblown, but Defense Department officials agreed to address the complaints in the coming weeks.
James Connell, a lawyer for defendant Ammar al-Baluchi, said the main issues have not been resolved and the defense teams are still using external hard drives and personal email for sensitive case work.
“From our perspective, nothing has changed as of today,” Connell said.
Nevertheless, Pohl determined enough progress had been made to move forward with a case that has repeatedly stalled over legal and political issues since the five men were transferred to Guantánamo from secret CIA prisons overseas in September 2006. The next round of pretrial hearings is scheduled to begin Oct. 22. A trial date has not been set.