9/11 Plotters’ Defense Lawyers Say CIA Destroyed ‘Black Site’ with Judge’s Permission

The lobby of the CIA Headquarters Building in McLean, Virginia, August 14, 2008. REUTERS/LARRY DOWNING/FILES

Defense attorneys for five 9/11 plotters, including mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, are charging that the CIA destroyed a “black site” in an unspecified country, removing evidence of torture, with the permission of the trial judge.

According to the Miami Heraldthe defense has been making vague complaints about the destruction of evidence since May, allegedly prevented from being more specific by the classified status of many details. On Friday, the judge agreed that some of the details were no longer classified, so the defense’s case could be laid out more specifically.

According to defense lawyers, the “black site” in question was, and still is, under the control of the CIA in a foreign country. U.S. agents were given permission to “decommission” the site while the 9/11 trial was still in progress, essentially removing the devices that might have been seen as implements of torture by the court.

Permission to decommission the sites was granted in response to secret filings, known as “no-name motions.” Defense attorneys say they thought they had defeated these motions two years ago, only to learn this February that the site was decommissioned. The defense lawyers haven’t seen the site themselves, and in fact don’t even know exactly where it is, or whether the judge, Army Colonel James L. Pohl, has seen it himself.

“None of the lawyers were privy to the name of the nation that hosted the site that was decommissioned. Part of why the prosecution was protecting it, they said, was to preserve foreign relations,” the Herald reports.

The defendants have suggested they were all mistreated at the site, one of them to the point where he “continues to bleed daily” from “rectal abuse inflicted during CIA custody” and treated with ointment instead of the necessary surgery during his incarceration at Guantanamo Bay.

Four of the defendants’ teams tried to have Pohl recused from the case for approving the decommissioning procedure, but he claims he was authorized under military rules to meet secretly with prosecutors to discuss the highly classified site. The fifth defendant, the one suffering from rectal bleeding, asked for the death penalty to be ruled out in his case.

The UK Guardian reported in May that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s defense team tried to have his entire military trial thrown out over the charges of destruction of evidence. Mohammed’s lawyers also tried to have the entire prosecution team dismissed from the case, a step that one of the defenders, Marine Corps Major Derek Poteet, said was “something you do not do lightly.”

Poteet said that even if the motion to dismiss the military tribunal failed, as appears to have been the case, the destruction of evidence would be brought up again during the sentencing phase of the trial.