Allegations of FBI interference in the military trial of a Guantanamo Bay detainee believed to have masterminded the 9/11 attacks forced proceedings to a halt, pending an investigation.
In Guantanamo Bay, proceedings in the military trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — who has been called the “principal architect of the 9/11 attacks” — have been put on hold due to allegations that the FBI improperly attempted to solicit a member of Mohammed’s defense team to provide information against other members of the defense.
The FBI was allegedly attempting to determine if members of the defense were responsible for the illegal leaking of Mohammed’s manifesto to the media.
If it is true that the FBI contacted the defense, this would be a violation of attorney-client privilege, which may trigger a mistrial. The trial judge, Army Col. James Pohl, has advised the defense team that they have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to select which FBI agents or other government officials they want to question in regards to the trial interference investigation.
According to complaints from the defense team, FBI agents visited a security officer for the defense on April 6. The security officer was assigned to assist the defense team of alleged conspirator Ramzi bin al-Shibh. The security officer’s function is to help make determinations on what trial materials should be made public or left classified; accordingly, the officer has a top secret security clearance ranking and unfettered access to the defense’s files.
At question is a 36-page manifesto Mohammed claims to have written while in custody. While other Guantanamo Bay detainees have released and published communiques about their stays in the military prison, Mohammed’s writings — the first of three planned chapters — are the first to come from a high-value detainee. In February 2008, the CIA publicly disclosed that Mohammed, along with Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was waterboarded.
The manifesto largely deals with Mohammed’s evolving religious beliefs — particularly, his newly-developed stance that force is no longer a valid means for converting non-believers to Islam.
“Don’t believe the media that the Mujahedeen believe that Islam spread in the past and will prevail in the future with the sword,” Mohammed wrote. “As President Richard M. Nixon wrote, Americans ‘remember only that the sword of Muhammad and his followers advanced the Muslim faith into Asia, Africa and even Europe and look condescendingly on the religious wars of the region.’ The Holy Quran forbids us to use force as a means of converting!”
This writing is in stark contrast to previous statements in which Mohammed has admitted to his role in the 9/11 attacks that killed thousands and his vetted claim to have beheaded American journalist Daniel Pearl with his “blessed right hand.” This discrepancy has led many to interpret Mohammed’s manifesto as a means toward convincing his captors that he is less of a threat than previously thought.
The manifesto also attempts to explain that true happiness can only be achieved through Islam and that Western society is a society in collapse.
“Happiness is not found only in money, in hearing music, in dancing, or in living a so-called ‘free life,'” he wrote in one passage. Those who live in the Western world have “missed the right path to happiness” and are “like a fisherman who went to the desert searching for fish or a hunter diving to the depths of the sea trying to catch a deer.”
While the musings and thoughts of Guantanamo detainees have been previously ruled unclassified, there are concerns about security, as the manifesto was released outside of official channels without being vetted. Indications that Mohammed attempts to discuss the “War or Terror” and motivations for the 9/11 attacks in subsequent chapters have raised concerns that the material may disclose controlled information, either inadvertently or intentionally.
This is not the first time that the government has been accused of interfering in the cases of Guantanamo detainees. In December 2013, Vocativ, a global social news network, reported that a surveillance system at Guantanamo called RedWolf had intercepted and recorded phone and Internet communications to and from the prison, including attorney-client conversations. These claims were refuted. In April 2013, more than half a million defense counsel emails were inappropriately turned over to a Defense Department agency in the case of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is accused of organizing the 2000 U.S.S. Cole bombing.