Gitmo Judge Blocks 9/11 Defense Attorneys from Viewing 28 Pages

Prosecutors assure military commission that other investigative documents on possible Saudi ties to 9/11 will be given to defense

By Brian P. McGlinchey

Judge James L. Pohl

A judge presiding over the trial of five Guantanamo detainees accused of orchestrating the 9/11 attacks has denied a defense motion seeking full access to 28 pages on Saudi government links to the attacks found in the 2002 report of a joint congressional intelligence inquiry.

Though the 28 pages were declassified in July 2016, the public version has 97 redactions amounting to about three cumulative pages of material. Defense attorneys wanted to see what’s still hidden from view.

Attorneys representing the accused 9/11 conspirators argued that evidence of other guilty parties, to include the possible complicity of the government of Saudi Arabia, could be useful to their defense during the guilt or innocence phase of the upcoming trial and, if necessary, during sentencing as well.

Prosecutors argued that, as a congressional record, the 28 pages are not releasable by the prosecution, and even if they were, they merely represent a repackaging of other information that had been or or will be provided to the defense.

Military judge James L. Pohl’s six-page ruling was rendered on July 26 and released last week after a security review. In it, Pohl pointed to precedents that give broad deference to prosecutors in deciding which material should be provided to the defense.

The judge also noted that a defense attorney’s acknowledgement that the 28-page chapter from the report of the congressional inquiry into 9/11 does not comprise a body of evidence per se, but is instead a summary of other investigative reports, and referred to prosecutors’ assurances to the commission that “the investigative reports that provide the basis for the Joint Inquiry have been or will be provided to the Defense.”

It’s not clear what that assurance implies, given prosecutors’ broad discretion in determining what information is discoverable and their previous arguments that the leads described in the 28 pages were merely preliminary and that the 9/11 Commission Report should be viewed as more authoritative.

That said, the 28 pages are filled with narratives that spark curiosity about details that might be found in the investigative reports behind them. Among them:

  • Zubaydah’s phone book. When U.S. and coalition forces captured Al Qaeda associate Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan, they found his phone book, which contained numbers linked to the Colorado mansion of Prince Bandar—the Saudi ambassador to the United States—and to a bodyguard at the Saudi embassy in Washington who was being investigated due to “the size and value of this residence and his suspicious activity in approaching U.S. Intelligence Community personnel.”
  • Bassnan’s cash. The 28 pages identify Osama Bassnan as an extremist and devotee of Osama bin Laden who bragged about the support he provided to two of the 9/11 hijackers. Bassnan received many checks from Prince Bandar and his wife, and the 28 pages tell us that “a CIA report also indicates that Bassnan traveled to Houston in 2002 and met with an individual who was ———————- —————— ——————————— ————- ——————–. The report states that during that trip a member of the Saudi Royal Family provided Bassnan with a significant amount of cash.”
  • Mysterious Virginians. Searching an al Qaeda safe house in Pakistan, investigators found the phone number of an unidentified Virginia man. When interviewed, according to the 28 pages, “he could not explain why his number ended up at a safe house in Pakistan, but stated that he regularly provides services to a couple who are personal assistants to Prince Bandar. This couple’s driver is an individual named ———– ——, who is assigned to the Saudi Embassy  in Washington, DC.”
  • Al-Hussayen’s hotel stay. On the night of September 10, 2001, Saleh al-Hussayen stayed at the same Virginia hotel as three hijackers. When interviewed by investigators, he reportedly feigned a medical emergency, prompting a trip to the hospital. Despite efforts by law enforcement to locate him and resume the interview,  al-Hussayen managed to return to Saudi Arabia without further questioning. Five months later, he was promoted to a highly prestigious post: President of the Affairs of the Holy Mosques at Mecca and Medina.

In an email responding to a query from 28Pages.org, defense attorney Edwin Perry said, “We will continue to fight for the discovery we are entitled to receive under the Constitution, the Military Commissions Act of 2009, and international law.” 

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