A defense attorney’s constitutional argument in the Guantanamo War Tribunal that the clock had run out in an incident involving a terrorist attack in Indonesia 20 years ago was suddenly drowned out by white noise.
“Disgusting…” were the last words the public heard from the defense team’s military attorney, Lt. Ryan P. Herschler.
Audiences watched through soundproof glass as lawyers swarmed in confusion over why court guards had silenced lawyers mid-sentence. After the audio was restored, the judge warned Lieutenant Hirschler to adhere to legal principles and avoid the facts surrounding the case. Encep Nurjamanan Indonesian man better known as Hanbali, and two co-defendants.
But even without a full explanation, this episode serves to show why justice comes so slowly at Guantanamo Bay.
It’s been more than 20 years since attacks in Bali and Jakarta killed more than 200 people, seven of them Americans. The three have been in U.S. custody for nearly 20 years, starting in CIA prisons. But lawyers and judges are still trying to figure out which parts of the proceedings should be kept confidential.
Unlike other American courts, secrecy permeates the proceedings.
The general public will hear the audio 40 seconds later. Enough time for prosecutors to signal to court guards who are educated about CIA secrets to press the “safe classification button.” More colloquially known as the “censorship switch”. Then a red light comes on on the umpire’s table device, like those used in hockey games to signal that a team has scored a goal.
In the special courts set up to try foreign suspects in the war on terrorism after the September 11, 2001 attacks, it can be confusing what constitutes secrecy. In other long-running cases, the mere mention of the CIA and the word “torture” provoked an incident for a period of time. They are no longer taboo.
Mr. Hanbari’s lead attorney, James R. Hordes, was not allowed to explain what he said after a junior lawyer on his team was “offended.”
“It’s ridiculous, it’s frustrating, it’s nonsense,” he said. “When the buzzer went off, I said, ‘You must be kidding,'” he said.
Confidentiality in war courts usually focuses on the years in which defendants were detained and tortured by the CIA, according to people familiar with the classified information. In some cases, these are facts about the identities of people who worked in the program or other intelligence agencies that operated there. In some cases, such as news reports, the information was published a long time ago, but it is still officially classified.
In the 9/11 and USS Cole cases, witnesses, lawyers, and even judges are obligated to refer to the country where the CIA held valuable prisoners in 2003 as “Place 4.” But in 2021, when the U.S. Supreme Court heard the defense of the state secret case filed by the Guantanamo prisoners of war known as Abu Zubaida, the judge repeatedly named the place:Poland.
Some information about Guantánamo Prison cannot be disclosed in public court. camp 7 locationwhere former CIA prisoners, including the so-called Bali bombing man, were held from 2006 to 2021, along with the identities of those who worked there. Detainee conversation monitoring system in their recreation yard.
Lieutenant Hirschler had argued that the case should have been dismissed because the defendant had not been brought to court sooner. The day before, prosecutors had proposed to start the trial in 2020. March 2025It’s also to give them enough time to process classified evidence.
“For 18 years, the government has neglected this case,” defense attorneys said. The three defendants were captured in Thailand in 2003 and transferred to Guantanamo Bay in September 2006, along with other men held as high-value prisoners of war by the CIA, until later that year Congress established the Military Commission. became one of the reasons.
Prosecutors have been indicting Hanbali and others since at least 2016. in a failed effortThey tried to get hold of one defendant, Mohammed Farik Bin Amin, to admit guilt and testify against others. However, Mr. Hanbari and co-defendants brought to court for the first time Due to the arraignment that took place in August 2021, a few months late by a pandemic. Lieutenant Hirschler had quarreled in just his second court appearance in April.
Judge Capt. Hayes C. Larsen has not yet rendered a verdict. He said in court that expedited court hearings presented “interesting legal issues related to the interplay between the various laws cited by the parties.”
He asked when, in the prosecutor’s view, the United States began a criminal investigation. Hanbali and two Malaysian co-defendants —and the guards cut off the sound for the public.
Audio was restored after 6 minutes. “There was a problem,” the judge said, “and it’s being addressed now.”