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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s Gitmo Reading Materials Come to Light

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (CN) - A military judge on Thursday excluded testimony that the self-professed Sept. 11, 2001, mastermind was caught by prison guards with a "disturbing" picture of the Twin Towers falling.

The image was allegedly found on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed by Navy Cmdr. George Massucco, the lawyer in charge of high-value detainees at the secretive Camp 7 prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Massucco said it depicted American flag-draped coffins set against the backdrop of an exploding World Trade Center.

He told the military court about it minutes before proceedings recessed for lunch Thursday, allowing that Mohammed's lawyers might have sent the material without the appropriate markings as research for the case.

When court resumed that afternoon, Mohammed's civilian attorney David Nevin immediately complained that Massucco's remark was a "bit of a drive-by" and was "dripping with implications."

Col. James Pohl, the judge presiding over this week's hearings, agreed to dismiss it as off-topic. Massucco had been called only to answer why Camp 7 guards had allegedly seized attorney-client communications this February.

Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, an attorney for one of Mohammad's co-defendants, said the seized documents revealed trial strategy.

One future motion for "unlawful command influence" concerned a claim that Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama tainted the proceedings in public statements. Another document spoke of unspecified "cooperation agreements."

Case prosecutor Jeffrey Groharing would not contest that the guards indeed took custody of privileged communications. He claimed, however, that his team never read them. In defending the guards' decision, Groharing said the seized papers had been inappropriately marked.

During cross-examination, the prosecutor shifted gears by questioning Massucco about contraband found in the men's cells. One was a book called "The Black Banners," the memoirs of former FBI Agent Ali Soufan. The title refers to a supposed passage of the Quran used by al-Qaida to draw recruits.

Soufan's book discusses a time when he outwitted a detainee by pointing out that the verse is apocryphal. The detail aims to show that traditional intelligence methods based on understanding an enemy are more effective than torture.

Massucco also said that guards found zip-ties in Mohammed's bin, but he added this might have stemmed from a prison official's mistake. Librarians in the camp often used these to bind books, but it still gave him concern for the safety of the guards, he said.

The commission prepared an ambitious agenda of 10 motions on Friday. They include several requests for discovery, client access, and an opportunity to question Mark Boal, the screenwriter behind the film "Zero Dark Thirty." It is unlikely that all motions will be entertained before court adjourns.

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