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Judge Orders US Government to Stop Censoring 9/11 Hearings

A military judge ordered the US government to stop censoring pre-trial 9/11 hearings from outside the courtroom.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 1/31/2013, 7:57 PM

Illustration of pretrial hearings for alleged conspirators in the 9/11 attacks
Illustration of pretrial hearings for alleged conspirators in the 9/11 attacks
Reuters

A military judge presiding over the hearings of five detainees charged with plotting the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the World Trade Centers and Pentagon, ordered the United States government on Thursday to stop censoring pre-trial hearings from outside the courtroom.

Proceedings at Guantanamo are heard in the pressroom, and in an adjacent room where human rights groups and families of the terror victims sit. There is a 40 second delay between the courtroom and outside rooms in order to enable a security officer sitting next to the judge to block anything deemed classified.

It was revealed this week, however, that there was an additional censor sitting outside the courtroom who also had the ability to cut the feed without the judge's input.

Judge James Pohl said the government must "disconnect the outside feed or ability to suspend the broadcast" from outside his court, AFP reported.

The ruling connotes that classified information could still be blocked, but only by order of the judge and not from outside the courtroom.

The issue was highlighted when part of the proceedings was censored on Monday and replaced with white noise after 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed’s attorney David Nevin said the word “secret.”

It was revealed, however, that the information was not blocked by anyone inside the courtroom, but rather from outside, without the judge’s knowledge.

Pohl noted his anger and dismay that the censoring mechanism was activated from outside the court, saying that "the judge and only the judge" can decide what happens inside the courtroom.

According to reports, it was not immediately clear if the judge would order the prosecution to present a witness to swear that outside censors had been unplugged.