Guantánamo

Navy lawyer tried to send al-Qaida magazine 9/11 defendant

Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, a military attorney, is currently the lone lawyer assigned to the case of Saudi Mustafa al Hawsawi, awaiting a death-penalty trial at Guantanamo.
Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, a military attorney, is currently the lone lawyer assigned to the case of Saudi Mustafa al Hawsawi, awaiting a death-penalty trial at Guantanamo.

 The Navy defense lawyer for one of the Sept. 11 accused tried to send his client a copy of an al-Qaida magazine, a prison camps lawyer testified Friday.

 Navy Capt. Thomas Welsh, until recently staff attorney at the detention center, identified Mustafa al Hawsawi’s defense attorney, Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz as the person who sent a copy of the magazine “Inspire” as legal mail in the summer of 2010. It included an article titled, “How to build a bomb in the kitchen of your mom.”

 The episode had long been a mystery, and a source of confusion. A civilian prosecutor, Clay Trivett, brought up the episode as part of a government effort to get the judge to adopt a review mechanism for mail going between defense attorneys and the alleged architects of the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

 According to testimony at Friday’s pre-trial hearing, prison staff reviewed the magazine amid confusion over whether the magazine was being sent as regular literature to be reviewed by prison staff — or as legal mail granted the protections of attorney-client privilege.

 It was rejected as contraband, and never reached Camp 7, the top-secret lockup for 14 former CIA captives, six of them awaiting death-penalty proceedings.

 Ruiz is arguing motions in pretrial hearings that are setting the conditions for attorney-client contact ahead of the actual Sept. 11 conspiracy trial. On Thursday, tensions rose in open court between Ruiz and prosecutors after one told him, off mike he “was playing with fire” by asking about intelligence organizations at work at Guantánamo.

 Criminal defense attorney David Nevin, defending alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, asked Welsh whether components for the bomb described in the article were accessible to Guantánamo captives. No, replied Welsh. “And neither is my mom.”

 Nevin also noted that Welsh testified that “Inspire” was an al-Qaida magazine, and asked the prison lawyer if he was aware that al-Qaida was a co-conspirator in the death penalty case against Mohammed and the four men accused of funding, training and instructing the 19 hijackers of Sept. 11, 2001.

The “Inspire” episode happened during the tenure of Navy Capt. Don Martin, Welsh’s predecessor. Ruiz noted through questioning of Welsh that he never got a reprimand for submitting the material. He argued that he gave it to the prison’s intelligence directorate knowing it was their job to decide whether it was appropriate. It wasn’t and was returned to him.

 Defense lawyers argued that the proposed order made it impossible for them to prepare for trial because it forbids conversation about jihad ideology and history, a likely cornerstone of the trial defense.

They noted that each is an officer of the court and understands his national-security obligations. They also argued that troops, contractors or prison lawyers should not be censoring the material they send to their clients.

The 9/11 trial judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, appeared to agree that a restriction on talk of jihad was problematic. But he also appeared troubled by “this bomb in my mom’s kitchen story,” and said, “there’s got to be balance no matter what the case is.”

 “There is a cutoff where there is a security issue,” the judge said, wondering aloud if it’s a case involving a revolver whether it would be appropriate to provide the accused with an “article about making a revolver out of a bar of soap in a prison.”

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