Guantánamo and the intelligence agency that hides in the shadows

The Miami Herald reports: The military judge in the Sept. 11 conspiracy trial abruptly cleared the court Thursday after a defense attorney said he was threatened by a prosecutor during a tense standoff over what U.S. intelligence agencies are working at the base.

Navy Cmdr Walter Ruiz, a veteran death-penalty defense attorney, was questioning Rear Adm. David Woods, a former prison commander, when a Department of Justice attorney interrupted. Court stopped. Ruiz huddled with several prosecutors.

“You’re playing with fire,” one said.

At issue in the hearing is who and what organizations influenced Woods as he restricted attorney-client communications ahead of last May’s arraignment of the five men accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackings that killed 2,976 people.He was in charge of the prison, even what the accused could or could not wear to court, a year ago when the alleged 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and four other alleged conspirators were arraigned. Thursday Woods testified by video teleconference from San Diego while Mohammed sat in court wearing a jungle camouflage hunting jacket that Woods had banned.

Woods already had testified that nobody ever told him that the CIA had input into an order that regulated the work of defense attorneys for the 9/11 accused and other former CIA captives. Ruiz, defense lawyer for Mustafa al Hawsawi, was asking the admiral what intelligence organizations he knew operated at Guantánamo during Woods’ 10-month tenure, which ended a year ago.

The line of questioning apparently so alarmed the Department of Justice’s attorney with expertise in state secrets, Joanna Baltes, that she mistakenly referred to Ruiz as “Commander Reyes,” another Navy lawyer from another war court case in which the accused was waterboarded.

Ruiz turned to the judge, Army Col. James Pohl, in exasperation. “If she wants me to use the term ‘agency who shall remain nameless’ I can do that.” [Continue reading…]

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