Who's silencing Guantanamo court audio feed, judge asks

The sound was abruptly cut in the Guantanamo war crimes court on Monday, prompting the angry judge to question whether someone outside the room was censoring pretrial hearings for five men accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.

In all hearings for the alleged al Qaeda operatives who were previously held in secret CIA prisons, a court security officer seated near the judge controls a button that muffles the audio feed to spectators when secret information is disclosed. A red light flashes and observers hear nothing but static.

The feed was cut when David Nevin, a lawyer for the alleged mastermind of the hijacked plane plot, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, asked if the lawyers and judges needed to meet in closed session before considering a defense request.

When the feed was restored moments later, the judge, Army Colonel James Pohl, indicated it wasn't the court security officer who cut the sound in the proceedings formally known as military commissions.

"If some external body is turning things off, if someone is turning the commissions off under their own views of what things ought to be, with no reason or explanation, then we are going to have a little meeting about who turns that light on or off," Pohl said tersely.

He seemed to be addressing the prosecution team and told them that Nevin had merely referred to the caption of an unclassified document - one asking the judge to order that the secret CIA prisons where the defendants say they were tortured be preserved as evidence.

A short time later, the judge said he would meet in closed session with the lawyers and reopen the public part of the hearing on Tuesday. The episode enlivened the first day of a weeklong pretrial hearing in the military tribunal at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba.

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