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Judge in September 11 case visits former CIA black site


A military judge at Guantanamo Bay entered the secure area containing the wartime prison for the first time on Friday, inspecting the former CIA “black site” facility at the center of the controversy over Guantanamo Bay’s torture taint. September 11, 2001case.

This is a noteworthy moment in the two-decade history of the Guantánamo trials. Before war tribunal judges had traveled five miles to inspect internment operations, it was the only known remaining intact remnant of the overseas prison network operated by the CIA from 2002 to 2009.

But Colonel. Matthew N. McCall, JudgeA decision is being made on whether the defendant was the mastermind of the attack, Khalid Sheikh Mohammedthree co-defendants voluntarily admitted to their involvement in the attack during their fourth year in custody during questioning by FBI agents at Guantánamo Bay.

The prison site he visited, called Camp Echo, played a central but hidden role in the case. From 2003 to 2004, the CIA held five prized prisoners there, close to the prison facilities but out of reach of the International Red Cross. It was part of its clandestine overseas network, which hid around 120 “high-value detainees” in remote locations including Afghanistan, Thailand and Poland.

In April 2004, the agency closed Guantánamo’s black jail and moved the five prisoners to other undisclosed locations on the advice of the Justice Department to avoid an impending U.S. Supreme Court ruling later that year that would allow Prisoners held at U.S.-controlled Guantanamo Bay contact lawyers.

In September 2006, after President George W. Bush ordered the transfer of Mr. Muhammad and 13 other CIA prisoners to Guantanamo to face trial, federal agents used the same part of Camp Echo to conduct what prosecutors called a “Clean teams” obtain confessions that appear to be legitimate.

The question now is, will the statements made by these men in 2007 be admissible at the final trial? Mr Mohammed and three men charged as co-conspirators Helped the 19 hijackers involved in the September 11 attacks.

Prosecutors consider these trials The most critical evidence The death penalty case has been mired in preliminary hearings since 2012. They argued that the statements were voluntary and therefore admissible.

Defense attorneys argued that by 2007, Muhammad and others had endured years of torture, solitary confinement and constant CIA debriefings in which they could do little more than answer questions they were asked to answer.

Military judges generally do not intervene in the actions of detainees, which makes There are currently 30 prisoners in custody. A judge has called the commander to appear to answer questions, and lawyers have provided photos of prison conditions as evidence in court.

A lawyer for one of the defendants, Amar Balochproposed an on-site inspection to the judge, who spent less than 20 minutes inspecting the courtyard of a wooden house consisting of a steel cell divided into two.

One half has a metal tray for sleeping pad, shower, sink and toilet, also made of metal, Alka PradhanMr Baloch’s lawyer told the court on Friday that he would be briefed before the judge appears. The other half was set up as an interrogation room, with linoleum and bolts on the floor, where detainees were shackled at their ankles during legal sessions that were still taking place.

“When it comes to information and belief,” she said, there was also a “tightening point on the ceiling.” But she did not disclose the specific time.

In one area of ​​Echo Camp visited by this reporter, the wooden houses all have windows. But the cabin where CIA prisoners were held and interrogated had no natural light — unless the exterior door was open.

Ms Pradhan said the tour was to support the defense team’s argument that Mr Baloch believed the 2007 interrogation was another stop on his torture tour of black sites. They ate McDonald’s meals together and chatted with him, interrogators testified.

But Ms Pradhan said just being on a website that resembled early black websites where he was beaten, naked and deprived of sleep “triggered an intense fear within him” that left him with no choice but to Tell interrogators what they know. Want to hear.

Colonel McCall left his black robe at the courthouse and drove himself and an aide to the checkpoint that controls access to the prison complex. The 15-minute drive passed an Irish pub, a McDonald’s and a bowling alley that serves about 5,000 residents – most of them Most were never allowed into the prison area.

In 2019, the U.S. government declassified the fact that part of Camp Echo had been the black base at Guantánamo Bay, but defense attorneys had known about this national security secret for years. Three defendants in the death penalty case told their attorneys they had been there before.

one of them, Abdur Rahim NashriAccused of masterminding the Al Qaeda suicide bombing of the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen on October 12, 2000, this is Guantanamo Bay’s longest-running death penalty case.

Last year, the military judge in the case, Col. Lanny J. Acosta Jr., throw away these statements Mr. Nashri went on federal questioning at Echo in 2007 over years of torture by the CIA

“The 2007 FBI interviews were actually conducted in the same building, possibly even in the same jail cell,” he wrote.

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