Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

(Photo: Justin Norman via flickr)

Judge OKs Censorship of Torture at Guantánamo Bay Military Commission Trial

Decision will bar statements about 'illegal CIA torture, rendition and detention'

Andrea Germanos

Testimony from the defendants at the Guantánamo Bay military commission 9/11 trial describing their own torture will be censored, the ACLU announced Wednesday afternoon, dealing a blow to the First Amendment rights of the American public and crushing claims of the commission's purported transparency.

Military Judge Col. James Pohl, who is presiding over the trial, approved the US government's request to keep the details of defendants' torture from the public, and allows for a 40-second delay on the audio feed of the proceedings to continue, which, Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU's National Security Program, says is "the tool through which the government unconstitutionally prevents the public from hearing testimony about torture."

The ACLU had challenged the secrecy, filing a motion in May asking for public access to the proceedings. In that motion, the ACLU stated that the government

has no legal authority to classify defendants’ statements containing their personal knowledge of the detention and treatment, including torture, to which they were subjected in U.S. custody--information that defendants acquired by virtue of the government forcing it upon them. In addition, the President of the United States has banned the illegal CIA interrogation techniques to which the defendants were subjected and closed the secret facilities at which they were held. The government’s suppression of defendants’ statements about techniques and detention that are banned and prohibited by law--and that, accordingly, cannot be legitimately employed in the future--is not justified by the government’s interest in protecting legitimate methods, and thus fails strict scrutiny as well. Finally, it is the very antithesis of the narrow tailoring required by the First Amendment for the government to categorically gag defendants when copious details about the CIA’s use of torture and coercive techniques, including on the defendants, have been disclosed publicly in official government documents and other reports and press accounts.

"We’re profoundly disappointed by the military judge’s decision, which didn’t even address the serious First Amendment issues at stake here," Shamsi stated of Judge Pohl's ruling on Wednesday. "The government wanted to ensure that the American public would never hear the defendants’ accounts of illegal CIA torture, rendition and detention, and the military judge has gone along with that shameful plan."

"For now, the most important terrorism trial of our time will be organized around judicially approved censorship of the defendants’ own thoughts, experiences and memories of CIA torture. The decision undermines the government’s claim that the military commission system is transparent and deals a grave blow to its legitimacy," said Shamsi.

Kevin Gosztola points out at Firedoglake that the ruling proves "the military commissions cannot be fair." He writes:

With this ruling, the government has won the privilege to keep the press and public in the dark on how they have treated 9/11 defendants. They have also won a precedent that will likely become a fixture of the process in this second-class legal justice system, which President Barack Obama chose to use over trials in federal courts.

This means any detainees held at Guantanamo that may find themselves being brought to trial will find it impossible to communicate to the world that their rights have been violated. Even if they are ultimately guilty of terrorism, entrenching this into the process proves the military commissions cannot be fair and that the government is capable will do whatever necessary to prevent violations of due process or human rights from infringing their ability to win convictions.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Embarrassing': US Absent as World Joins Together to Protect Biodiversity

"It reinforces the notion that the U.S. is a fair-weather partner when it comes to environmental conservation, including issues of climate change," said one critic.

Kenny Stancil ·


'It Was Torture': African Asylum-Seekers Describe Restraint Agony on ICE 'Death Flights'

"In Cameroon, I had been beaten with a machete until my feet swelled and bled... But the day I was put in the WRAP by ICE, I wanted to die. I have never felt such horrible pain."

Brett Wilkins ·


Progressives to Biden: Ignore Panel Advice and Embrace Supreme Court Expansion

"The GOP's rigged bench is contorting our laws," said Sen. Ed Markey. "We need to pass legislation to expand the Supreme Court."

Jake Johnson ·


Tory Lawmaker Stabbed to Death During Meeting With Constituents in UK

"Horrific and deeply shocking news," said Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer in response to the assassination of MP David Amess.

Common Dreams staff ·


New Study Reveals Poor, Low-Income Voters Were Crucial in Toppling Trump in 2020

The findings challenge "the media-driven narrative... that white low-income voters are the de facto base of the Republican Party."

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo