Wearing a camouflage hunting vest, the alleged mastermind of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, issued a blistering critique of U.S. defense policy during a court hearing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Wednesday, saying Washington has wantonly used national security as a pretext to murder and torture.
“The president can take someone and throw him in the sea under the name of national security,” Khalid Sheik Mohammed said in an apparent reference to the killing of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, speaking at a pretrial motions hearing. “He can legislate the killings under the name of national security for American citizens.”
The remarks, which alluded to the drone-strike killings of Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, both U.S. citizens who were members of al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, indicated that Mohammed is being kept abreast of current events. The tone of his intervention suggested that he intends to use this trial as a forum to convey that his time in captivity has hardened his vitriol against the United States.
“The government is using the name of national security as it chooses,” Mohammed argued at the end of the third day of motions. He warned: “Don’t get affected by crocodile tears, because your blood is not made of gold and ours is made of water. We are all human beings.”
The terrorism suspect’s remarks followed a lengthy debate before Judge James L. Pohl, an Army colonel, over a prosecution request that the public be prevented from hearing information that might be discussed during the trial concerning the CIA’s rendition and interrogation tactics.
“The government label of classified information does not turn third-party knowledge, experience and memories into something the government can suppress,” argued Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a motion seeking unfettered public access to the proceedings.
The Washington Post is among 14 media organizations that are supporting the ACLU’s position. David Schulz, an attorney representing the organizations, argued that keeping significant portions of the trial classified would undermine the legitimacy of the controversial war court.
“No one will believe justice was done if things are conducted in secret,” he said.
Joanna Baltes, a Justice Department prosecutor, said the protective order the government is seeking is similar to others that have been granted in the past in federal court to prevent disclosure of classified information. She noted that the judge will have the ultimate say over whether sessions ought to be closed to the public.
Reporters and relatives of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks may watch the proceedings remotely on a video feed that is delayed to give censors time to halt it. Pohl is expected to rule on the ACLU motion on Thursday.