February 12, 2013
Testimony from the special 9/11 courtroom at Guantanamo Bay this morning confirmed what defense lawyers have been complaining about for weeks now: The 32 microphones in the courtroom are sensitive enough to pick up lawyers’ conversations with their clients or co-counsel, even if they’ve muted their own mics. What’s more, both the court reporter and the government officials monitoring the proceedings for classified information receive that extrasensitive feed. Defense lawyers claim that intrudes on what are supposed to be confidential attorney-client communications.
Pre-trial hearings are underway this week at Guantanamo Bay in the case of the five men alleged to have masterminded the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The case is proceeding at a snail’s pace due to a host of procedural uncertainties arising in connection with the military commissions system, created after the 9/11 attacks, and the high-security courtroom built specifically to try this case. Neither the lawyers nor the judge is familiar with much of its technology.
On Monday, the government’s lead prosecutor, General Mark Martins, repeatedly objected to defense lawyers’ summarizing the expected testimony about that technology in court today. But the military commission’s courtroom technology program manager confirmed on Tuesday what defense lawyer James Connell had claimed: that the “ungated” audio feed picks up a wide range of chatter in the courtroom even from individuals not speaking into a microphone.