The Central Intelligence Agency was able to censor at least one U.S. military commission proceeding involving detainees held at the prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, reports The Intercept, citing documents it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.
According to the online news publication, the CIA censorship incident took place in January 2013 during the trial of five jihadists accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. homeland.
The Intercept reports:
[A] defense lawyer was discussing a motion relating to the CIA’s black-site program, when a mysterious entity cut the audio feed to the gallery. A red light began to glow and spin. Someone had triggered the courtroom’s censorship system.
The system was believed to be under the control of the judge, Col. James Pohl. In this case, it wasn’t.
Press and other observers are able to monitor the proceedings from a gallery via an audio feed that normally broadcasts information in real time.
“The gallery is cut off from the courtroom by three layers of soundproof Plexiglas,” notes The Intercept.
Judge Pohl reportedly blamed the Original Classification Authority (OCA) for the censorship.
The Intercept argues:
Many have speculated that Pohl’s ‘OCA’ is in fact the CIA. That speculation is now confirmed with the release of three new documents by The Intercept. The documents show the evolution of secret rules governing what is and is not allowed to be discussed before the military court at Guantánamo.
All three of the declassified documents are marked ‘secret’ and were distributed to defense attorneys and Pentagon-employed courtroom security officers. The documents clearly identify CIA as the OCA for torture-related information at the Guantánamo military commission proceedings.
The CIA and the Pentagon reportedly refused to confirm or deny the January 2013 censorship incident.
According to the news outlet, it obtained the the three declassified documents, which are from 2008, 2009, and 2011, through an ongoing FOIA lawsuit against the CIA and other federal agencies.
The Intercept points out:
The term ‘OCA’ is a placeholder that can refer to multiple agencies, but with respect to the rendition and torture program, Guantánamo observers have assumed for some time that it means the CIA. A defense lawyer asserted the connection in open court, and it has previously been hinted at in several other documents. At the end of January 2013, Judge Pohl issued a ruling declaring that there would be no more outside censorship of the tribunals…
The courtroom’s internal censorship system, including the Plexiglas and audio delay, continues to this day. But assuming Judge Pohl’s order is enforced, the CIA no longer has the power to decide when to cut the courtroom audio, as it did in January 2013.
Currently, 61 men are being held at the Guantánamo facility, also known as Gitmo. The largest detainee transfer under President Barack Obama took place last Saturday — 15 prisoners were sent to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), including two “forever prisoners.”
“Forever prisoners” refers to those who have not been charged by the court but are considered too dangerous to be released.
The Miami Herald reports that of the 61 prisoners still being held at Gitmo, 14 are “former CIA prisoners secluded in a secret site at Guantánamo” and the remaining 47 are considered “low-value detainees.”