Computer problems won't halt September 11 hearings at Guantanamo, judge rules

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 01, 2013 7:45 PM

By Jane Sutton

MIAMI (Reuters) - Pretrial hearings in the September 11 conspiracy case will go forward at the Guantanamo war crimes tribunal while computer network problems are addressed, a U.S. military judge ruled on Tuesday.

Defense lawyers had asked the judge, Army Colonel James Pohl, to suspend the hearings until the glitches were repaired, which was expected to take until early next year.

They argued in a September hearing that the system made files vanish and allowed outsiders to access case documents that the lawyers are ethically bound to keep confidential. The chief defense lawyer testified that it was safer to use their personal laptops and the Wi-Fi connection at Starbucks.

The judge didn't buy it and ruled that the hearings could proceed.

His ruling will not be made public until a security review is complete, but defense attorney James Connell said Pohl "ruled that the defense use of the information technology system is ethically reasonable, given Department of Defense plans to improve the system."

Connell, who represents Pakistani defendant Ammar al Baluchi, said very little had been fixed.

"There are hopes that the system will improve in the future, but for now the (Internet technology) problems still handicap the defense," Connell said.

The defendants are alleged al Qaeda conspirators who could be executed if convicted of charges that include terrorism, hijacking and murdering 2,976 people. They include Baluchi's uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the plot to hijack commercial jetliners and slam them into buildings on September 11, 2001.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled to start on October 22,and additional hearings are set for December, February and April. No trial date has been set.

(Editing by Philip Barbara)