The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Cole is towed away from the port city of Aden, Yemen, into open sea by the Military Sealift Command ocean-going tug USNS Catawba. On October 12, 2000, 17 sailors were killed and 39 were injured in an explosion that occurred as it was being refueled. File Photo by Don L. Maes/U.S. Navy | License Photo
Feb. 2 (UPI) -- The Biden administration said it will not use statements obtained through torture during any stage of the legal proceedings concerning a Guantanamo Bay detainee accused of being the mastermind behind a fatal bombing of a U.S. Navy destroyer more than 20 years ago.
The brief filed Monday night in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is a reversal from the government's previous stance that sought to use statements obtained from Abd al-Rahim Hussein al-Nashiri by the CIA through so-called enhanced interrogation techniques during pre-trial proceedings.
Al-Nashiri, a Saudi Arabian citizen, has been charged with capital offenses over the Oct. 12, 2000, bombing of the USS Cole that killed 17 U.S. sailors and the attempted bombing of the USS The Sullivans.
He was captured two years later and was under the custody of the CIA until 2006 when he was transferred to the Department of Defense.
During his four years in CIA custody, Al-Nashiri was subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques with the government acknowledging in court documents that statements from the suspect were coerced and involuntary.
Last year, the government submitted briefs arguing that the statements obtained during torture while under CIA care would not be used during the military commission's trial or sentencing but the law allows for them to be used during pretrial.
Al-Nashiri then petitioned against the use of such statements, saying doing so would be against the law of military commission, and the court has since been waiting for the Biden administration's response.
In the brief signed by Col. George Kraehe, the interim chief prosecutor of the Military Commissions, and filed Monday night, the Justice Department said it has reconsidered its position and that the law in question "applies to all stages of a military commission case, including pretrial proceedings."
"In accordance with that conclusion, the government will not seek admission, at any stage of the proceedings, of any of the petitioner's statements while he was in CIA custody," the document states.
The prosecution, however, did not rule out the use of statements obtained similarly in future litigation, stating it should be up to the court to decide if they are inadmissible in each potential instance.
"If a dispute arises regarding any particular past orders of any future attempt to admit such statements, the issue should be adjudicated in the first instance, in its specific concrete context, in the military courts below," the document states.