Judge: CIA Interrogations Not Relevant to 9/11 Accused's Sanity

Published on
by
Miami Herald

Judge: CIA Interrogations Not Relevant to 9/11 Accused's Sanity

by
Carol Rosenberg

This before and after shows Ramzi bin al Shibh, failed 9/11 hijacker and accused co-conspirator, from left, at a June 2008 hearing at his military commission arraignment at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and, right, in a photo taken before his 2003 capture by the CIA. (Image: McClatchy Newspapers)

U.S.
military defense lawyers for accused 9/11 conspirator Ramzi bin al
Shibh cannot learn what interrogation techniques CIA agents used on the
Yemeni before he was moved to Guantánamo to be tried as a terrorist, an
Army judge has ruled.

Bin al Shibh, 37, is one of five men charged in a complex death penalty
prosecution by military commission currently under review by the Obama
administration. He allegedly helped organize the Hamburg, Germany, cell
of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers before the suicide mission that killed
2,974 people in New York, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania.

But his
lawyers say he suffers a ``delusional disorder,'' and hallucinations in
his cell at Guantánamo may leave him neither sane enough to act as his
own attorney nor to stand trial. Prison camp doctors treat him with
psychotropic drugs.

Army Col. Stephen Henley, the military judge on the case, has scheduled a competency hearing for mid-September.

Meantime, the judge ruled on Aug. 6 that ``evidence of specific
techniques employed by various governmental agencies to interrogate the
accused is . . . not essential to a fair resolution of the incompetence
determination hearing in this case.'' The Miami Herald obtained a copy
of the ruling Monday.

Prosecutors had invoked a national
security privilege in seeking to shield the details from defense
lawyers. They argue that Bin al Shibh is sane enough to stand trial
with alleged mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and three other alleged
co-conspirators.

Many of the techniques used on the men have
already been made public. They included waterboarding, sleep
deprivation and sexual humiliation methods meant to break a captive's
will to hide al Qaeda secrets.

But Navy Cmdr. Suzanne Lachelier,
the Yemeni's Pentagon appointed defense attorney, said court-approved
mental health experts -- as well as the judge -- need to know the
specifics to assess her client's mental illness.

If he suffers a
long-standing psychosis, she said, he may never be made competent for
trial. But if he suffers post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of
his CIA interrogations, there may be PTSD treatments that could make
him competent.

Henley said he was relying on a recent U.S.
Supreme Court decision that upheld Guantánamo detainees' rights to
contest their detention in refusing the military lawyers the details of
Bin al Shibh's secret ``black site'' interrogations before his
September 2006 transfer to military custody.

In Boumediene v.
Bush, the judge noted, the justices said the courts must balance
national security secrets with the right of an accused to challenge any
evidence being used against him.

In this instance, Lachelier
said her defense team didn't seek to rebut the government's case but
wanted to know the details of his interrogation in order to let medical
staff assess his competency.

``We're not trying to point a finger at an institution,'' she said. ``We're just trying to rule in or out certain diagnoses.'

Moreover, she said, under war court rules, the judge could have ordered
Bin al Shibh's interrogation history sealed and only available to
defense attorneys and others involved in the case with top-secret
security clearances.

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