In the U.S. case against five Guantanamo detainees who are accused of aiding in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, a military judge has ruled that prosecutors may not use statements the detainees made to FBI interrogators after they were removed from a secret CIA prison.
Army Colonel James Pohl, the judge for the proceedings, ruled on Friday that the detainees’ statements, made to FBI “clean teams,” were not to be used in the death penalty trial.
The detainees had been interrogated while being held in a network of secret overseas prisons run by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). After the detainees were transferred to the Guantanamo detention center, an FBI “clean team” — agents who were not privy to the detainees’ previous statements or interrogations — again questioned the detainees.
Defense attorneys had argued that the detainees’ statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) could have been tainted by the previous interrogations. As part of their defense, the attorneys had sought to investigate the conditions under which the CIA had interrogated the accused men.
The five detainees include Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who has been described as the main architect of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Pohl’s ruling prevented the defense from investigating the detainees’ interrogations by the CIA. But, he added, “in order to provide the defense with substantially the same ability to make a defense as would discovery of or access to the specific classified information, the government will not be permitted introduce any FBI Clean Team Statement from any of the accused for any purpose.”
The ruling is seen as a potential setback to the prosecution.
On Sept. 11, 2001, 19 terrorists hijacked four airplanes, crashing two into the World Trade Center in New York, and one into the Pentagon, located in Virginia, near Washington. A fourth plane crashed into a field in near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and was believed to be headed toward the White House or the U.S. Capitol. Nearly 3,000 people were killed.