Newly Declassified Documents Reveal CIA Censorship Of Guantanamo Trial

A new set of declassified documents confirm that the CIA is guilty of censoring a defense motion during the military trial of five Guantanamo Bay prisoners.

In a series of documents obtained by The Intercept, it has been confirmed that the Central Intelligence Agency did in fact trigger an audio censor during a discussion of torture at a military trial for Guantánamo Bay prisoners over three years ago.

In January 2013, the courtroom audio of the military trial of five prisoners suspected of plotting the 9/11 attack was interrupted while a defense attorney was discussing a motion regarding alleged torture on the CIA black-site.

The censor, which was previously thought to be controlled by the courtroom’s judge, Col. James Pohl, wasn’t. Pohl had suggested that it was censored by an “Original Classification Authority,” or presumably the CIA. Sound to the courtroom had been cut off for roughly 40 seconds, denying audio to the press and others seated in the gallery just outside the courtroom’s three layers of Plexiglass walls.


The three previously classified documents confirmed on Monday that the CIA was in fact responsible for the OCA move, in a gesture that openly revealed corruption within the organization to keep torture accounts of prisoners under wraps. The documents were marked “Secret” and were read by defense attorneys and Pentagon-employees who worked as security officers in the courtroom.

Defense attorneys representing several of the 9/11 suspects argued that this declassification is one step closer to understanding what really happened at Guantánamo Bay, but isn’t enough to prove that the CIA is offering any form of transparency regarding torture-related events at the prison.

Joseph Margulies, an attorney representing Abu Zubaydah, who is among three of the prisoners whom the CIA has admitted to waterboarding said, “It is our position that the United States government has confirmed that Abu Zubaydah’s first-person account of his treatment is not classified. Therefore he ought to be allowed to disclose it.”

The lawyer representing Ammar al-Baluchi, who is still in custody at Guantánamo, James Connell, said, “The most important information for accountability is who did what and where they did it. Until that information is declassified, there will never be accountability for the CIA’s torture program.”

Despite President Barack Obama stating that he would close the prison since being elected in 2008, he still has not closed it eight years later.

After reviewing the recently released documents, an attorney working with ACLU, Ashley Gorski, told The Intercept, “In effect, the government was making the chilling and breathtaking assertion that it owned and controlled detainees’ memories of torture, whether true or false.” For a government body to not allow the voices of torture victims to be heard at their own trial—which is supposed to be a fair opportunity for representation—is truly unsettling. 

Banner photo credit: Reuters

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