US orders 9/11 suspects’ CIA experience kept secret

US orders 9/11 suspects’ CIA experience kept secret

MIAMI - Reuters
US orders 9/11 suspects’ CIA experience kept secret

Guards walk in the military-run prison at the Guantanamo Bay. A judge has issued an order to maintain secrecy of 9/11 defendants’ experience in prisons. AP photo

The U.S. military judge overseeing the Guantanamo prosecution of five alleged conspirators in the Sept. 11 attacks has issued an order maintaining secrecy over the defendants’ experiences in clandestine CIA prisons.

The protective order safeguarding classified information in the case was signed on Dec. 6 by the judge, Army Col. James Pohl, and unsealed on Dec. 12. It is not limited to documents formally labeled “Top Secret” by the CIA or produced by the government, but also prohibits disclosure of the defendants’ own “observations and experiences” in the secret CIA detention, rendition and interrogation program.

The defendants in the 9/11 case, including the alleged mastermind of the hijacked plane plot, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other captives, face charges that could lead to their execution.

Water boarding claims

All five were held in secret CIA prisons and all have said they were tortured by U.S. captors and the CIA has acknowledged it subjected Mohammed to the simulated drowning technique of water boarding 183 times. Pohl’s order prohibits public disclosure of any information that would reveal where the defendants were held; the names, identities and physical descriptions of anyone involved in their capture, transfer, detention or interrogation; and details about the interrogation techniques used on them. Prosecutors had asked for the order and said it was needed to prevent disclosure of information that could cause grave harm to the security of the U.S.

“By imposing a protective order, he has done what all courts do to responsibly handle national security information while also ensuring both that the accused will receive a fair trial and that the proceedings will be as open as possible,” a Defense Department spokesman said. The ruling comes as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence weighs whether to release a report analyzing the CIA detention and interrogation program that was launched after the 9/11 attacks. The report is expected to shed light on whether torture produced information that led to the discovery of Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts.