The Military Commission overseeing the trial of those accused in the 9/11 attacks held proceedings in Guantanamo Bay Cuba this week. Two days of motions, illness and ultimately an early end to the much-anticipated proceedings marked another stall in the long-anticipated hearings to try to bring justice for the worst terrorist attack in America’s history.
Progress halted late Tuesday evening when Marine Col. Keith Parrella suffered an eye injury and was eventually airlifted for medical attention.
For the two days of proceedings, the Military Commission, a military court of law traditionally used to try law of war and other offenses, heard from defense teams on two main lines of argument: one, that the proceedings should be postponed because of ongoing surveillance, harassment, and intimidation of the legal teams; and two, an argument over whether an interpreter identified as present during CIA interrogations of the detainees should appear in an open or closed session.
In an effort to assuage the teams, Justice Parrella said no one on the defense teams is under investigation. Two teams declined to participate in further proceedings until the issue of intimidation was reconsidered. Lead defense attorney for Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, David Nevin, said he has been repeatedly under investigation since 2009 – and has had to hire attorneys to defend himself. He holds top secret clearance and in previous investigations has not been found guilty of anything. Defense teams have found surveillance equipment in meeting rooms, claim to have members of their team under “rough surveillance,” meaning that the person “surveilled” is fully aware of being followed and watched, and have had the FBI question members of the teams.
Army Staff Sgt. Brent Skeete, a paralegal on the defense team of Walid bin Attash, was questioned by the FBI at Ft. Hood, Texas, on issues related to his participation on the defense team. Questions ranged from his participation to his understanding of relationships of the accused with other defense teams. Skeete converted to Islam while in the military.
In more speed bumps for the 9/11 hearings – which started back in 2008 – the defense team of Khalid Shaikh Mohammad is asking that Justice Parrella be removed as presiding judge because of an alleged conflict of interest. Parella worked as a fellow in the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice with some of the prosecution team now working on the hearings.
When asked for an estimate of when hearings may begin for the five key defendants accused in the 9/11 attacks, James “Jay” Connell, III, defense attorney for Walid Muhammed Salih Bin ‘Attash, said, “Everyone has proven that they care deeply, and I include in that the prosecution, the court staff, all the guard force, all the hundreds and hundreds of people who make this all that they intend to stay with the case as long as is necessary.”
Prosecutors stopped talking to the press in early November 2017.