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Judge delays hearing of accused 9/11 plotters amid spying allegations

February 11, 2013|By Richard A. Serrano
  • In this courtroom sketch from last year, accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaik Mohammed, right, consults with civilian defense attorney David Nevin in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In this courtroom sketch from last year, accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid… (Janet Hamlin/Miami Herald/MCT )

FT. MEADE, Md. -- The military judge in the Sept. 11 conspiracy case on Monday abruptly granted a defense request to stop all of the proceedings until Tuesday morning after lawyers for the five accused plotters raised fresh complaints that they were being spied on by government intelligence officials listening in on what should be confidential attorney-client conferences.

The defense lawyers said government intelligence officials, known only to them as the “Original Classification Authority,” have eavesdropped through the microphones at defense counsel tables in the courtroom, through a second “secret” audio feed installed in the courtroom and with microphones hidden in smoke alarms in outside holding cells used for conferences between the defendants and their lawyers.

“The fact someone else is listening, some other government agency is listening, an intel operation of some kind, and that these microphones are capable of picking up everything we say led us to believe the confidentiality of our discussions are at issue here,” said David Nevin, an attorney for alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

Cheryl Bormann, an attorney for Walid bin Attash, an alleged Al Qaeda training camp steward, said there was “overwhelming circumstantial evidence” that the government has been spying on the defense strategy, making a mockery of the military commission process that already has been roundly criticized by defense lawyers and many civil rights organizations.

“I’ve been practicing law for 25 years, and never have I been put in a position to ask whether I’ve been listened to,” she said.

Seeking to quickly dissolve the issue, the chief prosecutor, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, told the judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, that government audio/visual technicians could reprogram the microphones at the defense tables from a “push to mute” to a “push to talk” mode that would protect the confidentiality of defense-client discussions in the future.

Pohl liked that idea, and ordered technicians to make the changes Monday afternoon while court is in recess.

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