The Obama administration's choice to run prosecutions at the Guantanamo war crimes court is pledging a new era of transparency from the remote base, including the nearly simultaneous broadcast of the proceedings to the United States, where reporters and families of victims would be able to view them.
Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins made the disclosure in a profile published Sunday in the Weekly Standard.
The 51-year-old Army lawyer, who is completing two years in Afghanistan, starts the job of chief prosecutor for military commissions next Monday, according to a Pentagon spokesman, Dave Oten.
Two death penalty cases are already in the pipeline. The defendants are the alleged architect of the 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole off Yemen that killed 17 sailors, and five alleged 9/11 plotters.
The trials are certain to attract international scrutiny. Now, even before he has started his job, the general told the conservative magazine that the war court where he prosecutes will "feature new measures to ensure transparency, including a venue enabling victims and media to observe proceedings near-real-time in the continental United States."
They won't be live because the feeds will be broadcast on a "40-second delay to ensure safeguarding of national security information." At the maximum-security complex inside Camp Justice, that has meant a security officer can, and has, hit a white noise button to muffle testimony if someone suspects that secret or sensitive information is about to be divulged.
There is no indication that the transmissions will be available for broadcast by television networks in the United States.
If implemented, the new system would be vastly different from the one in place for previous Guantanamo proceedings. In those cases, reporters and other spectators were required to fly to Guantanamo on specially arranged Pentagon flights. While there, reporters faced strict limitations on where they could go and what they could report, and the limitations and expense helped cut the number of news organizations covering events there.
A Pentagon spokeswoman was unable to confirm the new transmission policy on Sunday, nor specify where the proceedings would be shown in the United States.
Even with transmissions to the the U.S., coverage of what goes on at the tribunals will be limited. The six alleged al-Qaida terrorists accused in the 9/11 attacks spent years in CIA custody at secret overseas sites before they arrived at Guantanamo in September 2006. Two of the accused were waterboarded and all were subjected to other "enhanced interrogation techniques" that the Obama White House now bans.
The CIA still forbids the public to hear what it did and where it did it, even after captives described their treatment at pretrial proceedings. The process also shields the identities of CIA agents and contractors who carried out interrogations.
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