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Lawyers for the alleged masterminds of the 9/11 terror attacks attempted to ease restrictions on the use and dissemination of classified information during a pretrial military hearing at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba on Tuesday.
Regulations governing the distribution of classified documents took center stage during the second day of arguments in a pretrial hearing aimed at clearing roadblocks that have prevented the U.S. government from bringing the accused terrorists to justice.
Defense lawyers have lodged an assortment of legal motions and challenges, effectively delaying a death penalty trial that has been more than a decade in the making.
While the government has pushed to hold the terror trial in September 2014, defense lawyers have balked, pushing procedural measures to roll back restrictions on the use of classified government documents.
Much of the holdup has centered on the so-called memoranda of understanding (MOU), or binding documents that permit a member of both legal teams to possess and view classified information.
The defense has refused to sign these memoranda, arguing that it would provide the U.S. government a window into the design of their legal team. They also want the accused terrorists to be permitted to view the classified evidence.
Defense lawyers on Tuesday morning continued their arguments, asking U.S. military judge Col. James Pohl to withhold the names of those eligible to receive such material.
The U.S. government should not be allowed to know who on the defense team has signed an MOU.
“It’s a window into the way we operate that we don’t have an equivalent on the other side,” one defense lawyer argued, explaining that a comprehensive list of names could give the prosecution an unfair advantage.
The prosecution countered by saying that it must know whom exactly is eligible to view classified documents, which are often delivered in bulk to the defense team’s offices.
Knowing who on the defense signed the MOU allows the government to “maintain accountability” over these sensitive documents and prevent unauthorized persons from compromising the information.
“That’s all it is, maintaining accountability so that we are sure we are providing this to an individual” who is cleared to view the documents, the prosecution argued.
The defense then argued that it should be permitted to discuss classified information with sources outside of secure government locations.
This would allow them to gain insight into alleged “enhanced interrogation tactics” and other measures taken against the accused terrorists.
Much of the defense hinges upon a public airing of the accused terrorists’ stint in secret CIA prisons and a highly guarded area of Guantanamo Bay.
Nearly 30 additional motions filed by the defense are still awaiting consideration.
As arguments unfolded on Tuesday morning, several of the accused terrorists were absent from the hearing room.
Alleged 9/11 funder Walid Muhammed Salih Mubarak bin ‘Attash noticeably failed to appear in court after complaining on Monday of a “gastrointestinal issue.”
Bin ‘Attash delayed Monday afternoon’s hearings after he was forced to take a nap mid-trial due to his stomach and back pains. A military doctor was later brought in to discuss Bin ‘Attash’s purported “gastritis.”
At least three other accused terrorists also waived their right to appear in the courtroom on Tuesday, though it remains unclear exactly why.
The trial has mostly focused on the fate of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. A close confidant of Osama bin Laden, Mohammed is believed to have orchestrated and funded the terror attack.
Mohammed’s defense team is requesting a delay of future court proceedings.