Guantánamo

Guantánamo prosecutor: Accused 9/11 plotter’s letter to Obama ‘pure propaganda’

In this sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin and approved for release by a Pentagon contractor, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, with his gray beard streaked with reddish-orange dye, attends an Aug. 19, 2013 pretrial hearing at the U.S. Navy Base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
In this sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin and approved for release by a Pentagon contractor, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, with his gray beard streaked with reddish-orange dye, attends an Aug. 19, 2013 pretrial hearing at the U.S. Navy Base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. ASSOCIATED PRESS

The war court prosecutor declared last month that alleged 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheik Mohammed’s letter to President Barack Obama is “inflammatory propaganda” — and advised an Army judge that Guantánamo prison staff get to decide whether it reaches the White House.

The description is contained in a Sept. 4 filing by the chief war crimes prosecutor, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, and a deputy that sought, and got, an emergency sealing order from Army Col. James L. Pohl, the judge in the five-man Sept. 11 capital conspiracy trial. It was made public Tuesday.

Moreover, Martins calls Mohammed’s 18-page letter to Obama an attempt to justify the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that “as a means of self-defense based on alleged American actions throughout history.” Nearly 3,000 people died that day in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon. To make it public, the prosecutors wrote, “would be an end run” around prison protocols “meant to ensure our nation’s enemies are not given a soap box to spread their radical agenda to the world.”

Inflammatory propaganda

Sept. 11 case prosecutor

First Amendment right

Lawyers for alleged

Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times by the CIA, then once bragged that he ran the 9/11 terror attacks “from A to Z,” wrote the letter to Obama in August 2014. His lawyers argue he has a First Amendment right to air his grievances and “express his opinions to government officials” —in this instance the president of the United States.

They attached it to a Sept. 3 filing that reported the judge’s Chief Security Officer checked with the FBI, National Security Agency and Department of Defense and concluded that the letter contains no classified information. So the issue became who decides if and how the president would get it.

Since the letter was unclassified, Mohammed’s lawyers asked the judge for permission to mail it through the U.S. Postal Service.

Within a day, the prosecutor sought an emergency sealing order — suggesting it was at risk of leaking. War court procedures require lawyers to submit court filings by email to the clerk, trial judiciary, case prosecutors and defense attorneys with appropriate clearances. In this five-man conspiracy case, the prosecutor wrote, there were “at least 97 recipients on the email.”

Lawyers for captive filed letter with war court Sept. 3. Judge sealed it at request of prosecutor a day later.

The prosecutors argue that the letter doesn’t meet Guantánamo’s definition of “legal mail,” meaning prison personnel get to vet it using a standard of whether its release could endanger the prison guards or detention center’s security.

Defense lawyers counter that nobody at the secret prison where Mohammed is kept —called Camp 7 —would accept the letter because it exceeds a prison limit of two pages of correspondence a month.

Unclear in the filing was whether Mohammed asked the prison to mail the letter in nine monthly installments to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. — and was rebuffed.

183 times the CIA waterboarded the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind

Mohammed’s lawyer, David Nevin, first disclosed the existence of the letter last summer during a court session. He expressed frustration at the time that, despite the fact that Obama has a security clearance, nobody at Mohammed’s prison would help deliver it to the White House.

Mohammed, his nephew and three other former CIA captives charged in the conspiracy case are due at the war court on Oct. 19. But those pretrial hearings have been repeatedly delayed while a Justice Department team works behind the scenes to sort out a potential conflict problem in the case involving FBI spying on the defense team of one defendant, Ramzi bin al Shibh.

Bin al Shibh’s disclosure in court in February that a linguist on his defense team had previously worked for the CIA has also complicated matters.

Meantime, Mohammed also apparently wants Obama to get a 50-page book he wrote. It’s called “Shall I Die When the Crusaders Carry out the Death Sentence?” the prosecution filing released Tuesday said.

Original documents

Read the defense lawyers’ Sept. 3 motion here, and the prosecutors’ Sept. 4 response here.

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