Microphones Caught Convos of 9/11 Plotters

The US government eavesdropped on whispered conversations between the suspected 9/11 plotters and their lawyers in court at Guantanamo Bay


A courtroom sketch of the suspected 9/11 plot
A courtroom sketch of the suspected 9/11 plot

The US government was capable of eavesdropping on whispered conversations between the suspected plotters of 9/11 and their lawyers in court at Guantanamo Bay, a witness testified Tuesday.

Maurice Elkins, the director of technology for the hearings at the US Navy base on the southeastern tip of Cuba, said more than 20 microphones had been spread around the courtroom, until changes were made on Monday, AFP reported.

Under questioning from defense lawyer James Connell on the second day of a pre-trial hearing at Guantanamo, Elkins said conversations at even "a very, very low tone," could be heard by government officials handling an unfiltered audio feed.

Elkins said the unfiltered circuit was controlled by software that was capable of recording everything said in court, unlike a "filtered circuit" relied on by journalists listening to proceedings from behind a glass screen.

Government lawyer Clayton Trivett, however, compared the situation to that of conversations taking place in a restaurant, noting that although such sounds could be heard it was not possible to isolate them and work out what was said.

This week's pre-trial hearing at Guantanamo is being viewed via a television link to the Fort Meade military base in Maryland, 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the US capital.

Censorship and how court proceedings involving the five men accused of orchestrating the September 11, 2001 attacks have been conducted at Guantanamo has been at the center of recent pre-trial hearings.

A military judge overseeing the case ruled last month that the US government had censored a discussion regarding secret CIA prisons, preventing it from being heard outside the courtroom, and ordered such censorship to stop.

The suspected plotters of attacks against the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, and involving another airliner which crashed in Pennsylvania -- killing nearly 3,000 people in total -- face the death penalty if convicted.

Three of the accused heard Tuesday's proceedings, including Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, the alleged ringleader of the airliner plot, who with the judge's permission was allowed to wear a camouflage jacket in the courtroom.