A curious matter of censorship in the Guantánamo court | ET REALITY


When a judge disqualified a prisoner last month from being part of the 9/11 attacks conspiracy case, the ruling was based on one finding: a mental health board’s diagnosis that the man, Ramzi bin al- Shibh, he had post-traumatic stress disorder. disorder.

However, when the Pentagon released a transcript of a pretrial hearing This week, when the diagnosis was discussed, any mention of post-traumatic stress disorder was crossed out.

It’s the latest example of a sometimes baffling approach by censors to picking and choosing the public records emerging from Guantanamo Bay.

On September 19, journalists, relatives of victims of the 9/11 attacks, and a law student were watching the proceedings from the courtroom’s spectator gallery when attorneys mentioned “PTSD” or “post-traumatic stress disorder” nine times. of every two. hours.

A court security officer never pressed the audio mute button, which viewers hear after a 40-second delay. The delay is a feature of the Guantánamo court, not used in US criminal courts, to prevent the release of classified information.

But when the Pentagon posted the “unofficial/unauthenticated transcript” on its military commissions website, only a secondary diagnosis supported by prosecutors survived the mark of censorship.

“He has a delusional disorder,” said Clayton G. Trivett Jr., one of the lead prosecutors. “That doesn’t make him incompetent. That does not prevent you from cooperating intelligently in his defense.”

The redaction of public records is the work of a shadowy organization called SCDRT, or Security Classification/Declassification Review Team. For years, the Pentagon routinely released transcripts of public hearings within 24 hours, sometimes on the same day.

But security officials can take weeks or months to redact transcripts when public testimony involves the inner workings of the Guantánamo prison or the CIA’s network of secret prisons abroad, known as black sites, where prisoners were held. tortured

There was no immediate explanation for the PTSD redactions.

David I. Bruck, a lawyer for Mr. bin al-Shibh, has said that his client’s condition was the result of “years and years of solitary confinement” and other forms of torture at black sites.

Because the judge removed Mr. bin al-Shibh from the case, four men now face joint prosecution. The main defendant is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, accused of being the mastermind behind the attacks that killed almost 3,000 people on September 11, 2001.

In court Friday, Gary D. Sowards, Mohammed’s attorney, said the invisible censors were using redactions “for public relations reasons and tactical considerations, not for national security.”

“The CIA tortured people until they were mentally unfit to stand trial,” he said.

The prosecution did not respond.

But Col. Matthew N. McCall, the judge, responded that he did not reach that conclusion when he ruled that Mr. bin al-Shibh was mentally unfit and removed him from the case. The judge said he had found no need to link any of the prisoner’s diagnoses to the CIA program.

Colonel McCall agreed that some redactions “made very little sense” because the information that was redacted did not raise national security objections at the time it was said.

“I’ll see what I can put out there to ensure that those types of redactions don’t happen,” he said, noting that court transcripts are handled by “a different entity.”

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