ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE, Md. (MCT) — A First Amendment attorney joined journalists bound for Guantanamo Tuesday in an orchestrated U.S. media bid to open up the first ever war court testimony by a captive about CIA interrogations that the government contends are secret.
Pentagon prosecutors arranged for New York lawyer David A. Schulz to join a military flight scheduled to leave Tuesday morning for the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba a day ahead of a hearing in the case of alleged al-Qaida bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi facing Guantanamo’s first death-penalty trial. Prosecutors allege that al-Nashiri orchestrated the October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole that killed 17 American sailors.
This week, al-Nashiri’s defenders intend to call him to testify in a closed military commissions session about his treatment at secret overseas CIA prisons in 2002 and 2003 when, according to declassified U.S. documents, he was waterboarded, threatened with a handgun and a power drill to get him to confess to his role as an alleged al-Qaida terror planner.
Schulz filed a protest on behalf of a consortium of news organizations, ranging from The Miami Herald and its corporate parent, The McClatchy Company, to Fox News to The New York Times and National Public Radio over war court secrecy last week. He argued it is not only in the public’s interest to know what the CIA did, but also that some of the so-called secret interrogation techniques have already been disclosed in properly declassified CIA documents.
“This is arguably the first major test of this iteration of the commissions,” said Eugene Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School. “Somebody has got to take a hard independent look at what’s classified and why.”
Pentagon officials say the closure of the hearing is driven not by individual desire but by rules at the Obama-era war court that protect national security secrets that are properly classified.