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FBI Accused of Infiltrating Guantánamo Defense Team

US halts military trial proceedings halted after lawyers file emergency motion charging spying

Sarah Lazare

The U.S. government on Monday slammed the brakes on proceedings in the military trial of 9/11 suspects at Guantánamo Bay following charges that the FBI infiltrated and spied on their defense team.

The halt is just the latest setback for a trial process that has been embroiled in charges of inhumanity, torture, spying, censorship and absence of due process.

The defense lawyers filed a motion on Sunday charging that the “the government has created what appears to be a confidential informant relationship" with a security officer on the legal team of Yemeni Ramzi bin al Shibh—one of five men at Guantánamo Bay facing charges related to the September 11th attacks, journalist Carol Rosenberg revealed in the Miami Herald on Monday.

The motion claims that "FBI agents recently developed the relationship during an investigation of how two news organizations got copies of prison camp musings" of Khalid Sheik Mohammed—who is accused of leading the attacks.

The lawyers allege that the FBI interrogated this informant "about the activities of all defense teams."

“The implications of this intrusion into the defense camp are staggering," reads the motion.

The motion calls for an emergency hearing about the alleged infiltration and urges judge Army Col. James L. Pohl to investigate the potential conflict of interest regarding the prosecution of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and four other people accused of participating in the attacks.

Following the motion, Pohl halted a Monday hearing on bin al-Shibh’s mental competency for pre-trial proceedings.

Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney of the Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative at the Center for Constitutional Rights, told Common Dreams, "This seems to be part of a longstanding trend of the military trying to co-opt the attorneys for detainees as part of an interrogation process," he said. "That is how it will be perceived by the detainees themselves."

The charges follow previous revelations and allegations that defense lawyers are unlawfully monitored. This includes revelations last January that defense lawyers at Guantanamo Bay were censored by the CIA, as well as revelations last April that hundreds of thousands of defense emails were inappropriately given to prosecutors.

The 9/11 co-defendants have languished for years in legal limbo, and their trial has been widely criticized as rigged and inhumane. Mohammed has been water-boarded at least 183 times by the CIA.

According to Kadidal, this latest incident of alleged spying will have a wide impact. "This news will spread way beyond people who are part of military commissions process," he said. "It will affect the way in which ordinary detainees will interact with their lawyers and defense council."

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