The hearing ensued in confusion, as the attorneys and judge argued over what the law is, who's required to explain it to the defendant and how bin Attash can inform the judge why he wants a new lawyer. Underlying the entire discussion was a sense that no one in the room knows all the relevant facts.
The judge swings gently on his high-backed black chair and orders a recess. We eventually reconvene over an hour later and the issue is about what sort of conditions Bin Attash can expect if he defends himself: Will he have access to a law library and other material? Will he be able to call lawyers for advice? This all seems unlikely given his current lack of access to his attorneys.
The military commissions have once again cancelled two weeks' worth of hearings scheduled in the case of the five alleged plotters of the September 11 attacks. Although the attacks themselves took place nearly 14 years ago, the five men accused of masterminding the deadliest terror attack to ever take place on U.S. soil are still nowhere near trial.
It's time for the U.S. government to put an end to this fiasco. The legitimacy of such important terrorism cases as the September 11 attacks is not something to be disregarded, nor is the impact on the victims' families, who have yet to see justice done. All the military commission cases could be reliably tried in the seasoned and successful U.S. federal court system.
I really hope family members of victims of the 9/11 attacks weren't planning on attending the hearings scheduled at Guantanamo Bay this week. It would be completely demoralizing to someone who suffered personally from the heinous mass murders that took place 13 years ago to find that once again, all efforts to bring the five alleged perpetrators to justice had stalled, and once again, no one's allowed to know why.
Four months after defense lawyers first told a Guantanamo military commission that they'd learned the FBI was spying on their colleagues, it remains unclear who or what the FBI was investigating. What is clear is that it will continue to delay progress in the case of the five men accused of masterminding the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
As James Harrington, lawyer for Ramzi bin al Shibh, told the court on Monday: "We now have to represent to our client that we had a spy within our team for a number of months. We don't know what activities that spy did." Will Harrington's client ever trust his defense team again? Should he? And if he can't, can he ever truly receive a fair defense?