Human Rights Advocate Felt 'Cheated' Observing 9/11 Tribunal

More than a decade after he evacuated his own midtown office in New York City during the Sept. 11, 2011 terrorist attacks, Kenneth Roth traveled to Guantanamo Bay to watch the arraignment of five accused co-conspirators. His reaction? “I couldn’t help but feel cheated.”

When the five men were arraigned on Saturday before a military tribunal, Roth writes in a New York Times op-ed, they were facing prosecution before a type of military commission that “may be ‘new and improved’ from earlier versions, but they are still rigged against the defendants.”

Not only are the 9/11 defendants deprived of fairness protections they would be afforded in a civilian court, Roth writes with detail, but there are major international implications too:

“Their proponents think that military commissions are the tough way to combat terrorism, but they are really a gift to terrorist recruiters. If a conviction is tainted by unfairness and the defendants are railroaded to death, it would generate outrage. Most people would simply grind their teeth and move on, but a small number would be driven into the grasp of Al Qaeda and its successors. And, as we sadly know, it doesn’t take many angry people to launch a horrible terrorist act.”


Public Access to Secret 9/11 Testimony Sought

The American Civil Liberties Union has formally asked that the American public be allowed to hear testimony from five accused 9/11 codefendants about their experiences at the hands of CIA captors in secret prisons overseas. The defendants, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, are to be arraigned Saturday at Guantanamo Bay.

Under the system to be used by the tribunal, a 40-second delay is employed. That is time enough, according to a Miami Herald article, for an intelligence official to punch a white noise button if any of the defendants describe what CIA agents did to them between their capture in Pakistan and their arrival at Guantanamo, several years later. Spectators view the courtroom proceedings from a soundproofed, glassed-in booth.

The challenged practice amounts to censorship, the ACLU contended, saying it was premised on  “a chillingly Orwellian claim” that the accused “must be gagged lest he reveal his knowledge of what the government did to him.”

The 9/11 case about to begin at Guantanamo will “test whether alleged terrorists can get justice before U.S. military tribunals,” a Bloomberg article said.

According to civil liberties advocates, civilian courts would provide greater legal protections — such as the exclusion of evidence tainted by torture — for the five men.

“A prosecution that ultimately fails to measure up to international standards of justice undermines our credibility in the eyes of the world and plays into the hands of those who want to attack us,” said David Glazier, a law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.