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Gitmo judge bars gov't censorship of feed

Jan. 31, 2013 at 3:43 PM   |   Comments

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- A military judge in Guantanamo, Cuba, said Thursday the government may not censor video of pretrial hearings for Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack suspects.

Col. James Pohl said only he and the court's security officer have the authority to control the audio and video feed from the courtroom, The Hill reported.

The audio feed was cut Monday, the first day of the latest round of pretrial motions in the case of five defendants, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-professed mastermind of the attacks.

David Nevin, one of Mohammed's civilian attorneys, was discussing a defense motion to preserve evidence from secret overseas prisons where the defendants were held by the CIA, when the audio feed to media centers at Guantanamo and at Fort Meade, Md., were drowned out by white noise and then the video feed was cut.

Prosecutors disclosed Tuesday a government agency known as an Original Classifying Authority tracks the tribunal's proceedings. The authority can decide whether any content produced during the hearing is classified and can censor the public audio and video feed, the report said.

Little is known about the authority, The Hill said, noting it is most likely a military or intelligence group.

Pohl had protested a decision by an authority official Monday to black out about 2 minutes of the closed-circuit television feed, saying nothing classified was discussed during the portion that was censored.

He said Thursday that was "the last time" anyone other than he or the court security officer "will be permitted to unilaterally decide that the broadcast will be suspended."

"Accordingly I order the government to disconnect any ability of a third party to suspend broadcast of the proceeding, and I order any third party not to suspend proceedings," he said.

The video feed is provided to journalists on a 40-second delay, giving court security officers the opportunity to block transmission of classified material, The Hill said.

Pohl's ruling Thursday followed a request by attorneys for the defendants to suspend the hearing out of concern confidential communication between the defendants and their lawyers had been compromised.

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