GUANTANAMO NAVY BASE, Cuba -- Judge Col. James Pohl insisted he was the only person who could close the military commission courtroom here a day after a mysterious censor improperly cut off an audiovisual feed of courtroom proceedings.
Journalists and observers are permitted to watch a feed of the courtroom proceedings at Guantanamo on a 40-second delay, a measure intended to prevent the accidental disclosure of classified information. A court reporter in the courtroom has the ability to cut off the feed by pressing a button. But Monday, as a lawyer for confessed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was speaking about a motion, an anonymous censor cut the feed off, frustrating Pohl.
During a closed session later Monday, Pohl indicated he would try to get someone to testify about the courtroom security measures in place at Guantanamo. He admitted Tuesday morning he didn't know who would be the proper witness to testify about who has the ability to cut off access to the courtroom he's supposed to control.
Tuesday morning's proceedings shed little light on who precisely controlled access to the courtroom feed, but Pohl directed the government to provide defense attorneys with an audio-visual expert to explain what technologies are in place. He also made comments that seemed to be directed at the anonymous censor who cut off access to the feed yesterday.
"Only the judge had the authority to close the courtroom," Pohl said, indicating that there was no valid basis to close off proceedings on Monday.
Defense attorneys for the five accused terrorists on trial in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks also expressed concern that all of their communications with their clients were being monitored by the microphones in the courtroom. Pohl said he understood their concerns.
"I think you and I are in the same position in which we're relying on what we think the technology is as opposed to knowing what it is," Pohl told one defense lawyer.
General Mark Martins, the chief prosecutor at Guantanamo, insisted that Pohl had signed off on all the audio-visual capabilities that he was now claiming not to understand.
"Of course it's your courtroom, and everything here is what you direct it to be," Martins told Pohl.
"I think you give me way too much credit as to what I know about what's happening in this courtroom from a technology standpoint," Pohl said.
Martins then chalked it up to a technological misunderstanding, telling Pohl he was "in the same generation as me."