ACLU seeks public access to 9/11 trial

May 4, 2012 at 7:41 PM
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NEW YORK, May 4 (UPI) -- The American Civil Liberties Union requested statements made by the accused Sept. 11 conspirators about their treatment at Guantanamo Bay be allowed in court.

The ALCU asked the military court trying the five defendants to reject any U.S. government attempt to censor the suspects' statements on their detention and treatment while in CIA and Department of Defense custody, the ACLU said in a statement Thursday.

In a filing made public Tuesday, the government contended any statement made by the defendants about their "exposure" to the CIA's detention and interrogation measures could possibly be classified as "sources, methods and activities" of the United States and could be withheld from the public.

"The government's claim that it can classify statements based on a prisoner's own knowledge and experience of illegal government conduct is chillingly Orwellian and has no basis in law," said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project and lead counsel on the motion. "Our nation's civilian and military courts have historically recognized that the truth, no matter how ugly, is better aired than concealed from the public. The most important terrorism trial of our time should not be an exception to the rule of public access as its legitimacy depends in part on its transparency."

Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his four alleged co-conspirators are set to appear in court Saturday for an arraignment at Guantanamo Bay, The Miami Herald reported.

The five are facing terror charges for allegedly organizing, funding and training the 19 hijackers who took control of four airplanes on Sept. 11, 2001, and flew them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attack.

The Pentagon has yet to respond the ACLU's 32-page motion.

"The judge will decide whether the merits of their complaint have standing," said Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale.

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