GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (CN) - Lawyers for the suspected plotters of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks asked President Barack Obama on Friday to declassify details about their clients' interrogation.
Earlier this week, lawyers for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-professed "mastermind" of the attacks, and his four alleged accomplices challenged an order that prevents them from probing their clients' treatment in secret CIA prisons. They said the rule violates the Convention Against Torture, a treaty the United States ratified in 1994.
Without access to this information, the military judge should penalize the government by dismissing the charges, or taking the death penalty off the table, they added.
The military judge, Col. James Pohl, responded to the demand Tuesday by saying, "If the president of the United States wanted to declassify this information, he certainly can, and we wouldn't be having this conversation."
On Friday, Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, the lead military lawyer for Mustafa al-Hawsawi, did just that in a two-page letter to his commander-in-chief, co-signed by military and civilian defense co-counsel.
It begins by reminding Obama of his June 21, 2011, promise that he "reaffirmed our commitment to the convention's tenets and our domestic laws."
Ruiz wrote that the "true meaning and effect" of that statement would mean shining a light on "all aspects of the RDI program with respect to our clients against whom the United States seeks to impose the death penalty," abbreviating the "rendition, detention, and interrogation" program.
"True transparency and meaningful justice can only be achieved by a faithful application of deeds to aspirational statements," the letter states. "Here, we have such an opportunity."
Obama should not let "fear of public embarrassment and the desire to conceal war crimes" keep the information under wraps, Ruiz wrote.
Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Counsel, said that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is "currently discussing its classified report with the CIA."
"We supported the CIA's cooperation with this review over the last several years, which included unprecedented support and access for the committee," she said in a statement. "We believe that it is important for the committee and the CIA to continue working together to address issues associated with the report - including factual questions. When that process between the committee and the CIA is complete, we understand that the committee will vote on its updated document and then pursue declassification of the document, in whole or in part."
She added that President Obama "has made clear that the program that is the subject of the committee's work is inconsistent with our values as a nation," and one of his first acts in office involved signing an executive order that "prohibited so-called enhanced interrogation techniques."
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