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9/11 Defendants Claim Military Commission Translator Assisted CIA Torture

02/09/2015 11:19 am ET | Updated Apr 11, 2015
Adam Berent via Getty Images

It didn't take long for the Guantanamo military commission in the 9/11 case to stumble again -- this time when two of the accused co-conspirators said they recognized a translator in the courtroom from their time in a CIA black site.

This is the first time since August that the commission at Guantanamo has met in this case of the five accused masterminds of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The case has repeatedly stalled over concerns that the government is spying on defense counsel, most recently by trying to turn a defense team member into an FBI informant. Previously, defense lawyers claimed their computers were being monitored and they discovered that the supposedly private rooms where they meet with their clients were all wired for audio and video surveillance.

Now, unbeknownst to their own lawyers, two defendants -- Ramzi bin al Shibh and Walid bin Attash -- claim they recognize a new translator assigned to the commissions as someone who was also a translator at a CIA black site where they were tortured. They say they can't trust him.

Gen. Mark Martins, the military commission's chief prosecutor, didn't deny the allegation, but said the government would have to investigate. "I can assure there is no attempt to have someone be put into defense teams in some untoward way, but we do want to collect the facts and understand what the situation is," he said. Defense lawyers agreed, although at least one asked for a separate team of prosecutors -- the Special Review Team, or SRT, assigned to investigate the alleged FBI infiltration of defense teams -- to be the ones to review this new matter as well.

"If this is part of the pattern of infiltration by government agencies of government defense teams, then the right people to address this are not in the courtroom," said attorney Cheryl Bormann, who represents Walid bin Attash. "It seems to me that the SRT should be the people looking into and determining to what extent that placement of an individual who has worked for the government in the past is part of an ongoing scenario."

Judge Pohl left it up to the government to decide which prosecutors should handle the matter, and adjourned the case until Wednesday morning.