The problem with the Guantanamo military commissions is not the defendants' right to appear at hearings in their own trial. It's that the government keeps meddling in the cases in such cockamamie ways that they have to adjourn for months at a time while the lawyers scramble to figure out how to respond. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Watching the procedural details getting worked out can get pretty boring, which is why you won't hear many news reports about it. But underlying this dragged-out ho-hum process is a critical fact: The government could have avoided putting itself on trial and instead focused on seeking accountability for the mass murder that took place simply by conceding its mistakes from the beginning and working out an accommodation in an experienced federal civilian court.
Within minutes of the start of the hearing in the case against the five alleged masterminds of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Walid bin Attash, who's accused of helping to train the 9/11 hijackers, announced he doesn't trust his appointed lawyers and wants to communicate with the judge directly instead.
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.