FORT MEADE, Md. - The lead attorney for the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 terror attacks said Thursday he might withdraw from the case unless the judge orders the government to divulge details about FBI investigations of defence team members.
Civilian defence attorney David Nevin said during a pretrial hearing in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that the possibility that defence team members are working with the FBI has strained his relationship with client Khalid Sheikh Mohammed of Kuwait. The proceedings were video streamed to a room at Fort Meade for journalists.
"It is an extremely extraordinary and singular thing that the FBI tried to invade my defence camp, and it's astonishing to me and I have no idea why they did it," Nevin said.
He asked the U.S. Military Commissions judge, Army Col. James Pohl, to reconsider his July 24 ruling that the FBI's actions posed no potential conflict of interest in Mohammed's case. The ruling was based partly on a special review team's finding that the FBI was no longer investigating anyone.
Pohl said his order will remain in effect through another pretrial hearing Oct. 13-17 for the five Guantanamo detainees accused of plotting the 2001 attacks. Teams of hijackers crashed four commercial jetliners, one each into the twin towers at the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon outside Washington and a field in western Pennsylvania, killing 2,976 people.
Kevin Driscoll, a federal prosecutor on the special review team, discounted Nevin's speculation about an FBI mole among defence team support staff.
Driscoll said the review team had conducted "extensive searches of FBI holdings." He assured the judge, "there is no FBI investigation of defence team members, and there is no poison pill or mole in the defence team."
Little is publicly known about the two reviews. Lawyers say the FBI questioned an investigator and a classified material analyst for the team representing defendant Ramzi Binalshibh of Yemen; an investigator for defendant Mustafa al-Hawsawi of Saudi Arabia; and a translator on the team representing Mohammed.
Pohl couldn't rule out a conflict of interest in Binalshibh's case. Al-Hawsawi's lawyers have said they don't believe they have any conflict in continuing to represent him.
Nevin told a news conference after the hearing that Mohammed has been prevented by his jailers from sending to President Barack Obama a letter that Nevin said complains about "Muslim oppression at the hands of the West in general and the United States in particular."
The chief prosecutor, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, said detainee communications are restricted by a court order aimed partly at keeping prisoners' letters out of the news media.
"Those restrictions balance very important concerns of security, fairness, access to counsel," Martins said.
Mohammed appeared in court wearing a black-and-white checked headdress cloth that Nevin said was meant to show solidarity with Palestinians at war with Israel in the Gaza Strip.
The other defendants are Walid Mohammed Bin Attash of Yemen and Ali abd al-Aziz Ali of Pakistan. All five have been at the Guantanamo prison since September 2006.
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