WASHINGTON — The defense team for one of the five co-conspirators accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks is calling for the release of a classified Senate report that chronicles the CIA’s controversial detainee “enhanced interrogation” program.
Attorney James Connell, lead counsel for Ammar al Baluchi, told BuzzFeed on Tuesday he planned to file a legal motion demanding the release of the full, unredacted report with the U.S. military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by Wednesday.
Along with the report, drafted by the Senate Intelligence Committee, Connell is also requesting Pentagon prosecutors hand over the CIA’s official response to the Senate panel’s review, as well as all “underlying documents referring to or regarding” al Baluchi’s time in CIA custody.
On Thursday, members of the Senate intel panel are slated to vote on whether to declassify portions of the committee’s report.
Details of the Senate findings, first reported by the Washington Post, claimed the CIA had misled Congress and the public on the brutality of the interrogation techniques and the effectiveness of those techniques in tracking down top al-Qaeda leaders, like Osama Bin Laden and others.
A declassified portion of the 6,300-page report would be one of the very few records of the CIA interrogation program’s existence to officially be made public.
During pretrial hearings in October, defense teams tried unsuccessfully to force U.S. military prosecutors to hand over details of interrogations at the secret CIA sites to lawmakers and staff who have classified security clearances, such as members of the defense and intelligence committees.
The move was seen as an early attempt to pave the way for declassification of the controversial Senate report on the interrogation program.
In April 2009, President Obama ordered the declassification of Justice Department memos detailing the interrogation tactics used on alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The documents showed the al-Qaeda leader was waterboarded more than 180 times.
Mohammed, along with al Baluchi and co-conspirators Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin ‘Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al-Hawsawi, are currently standing trial for their role in plotting the 9/11 attacks. All men are due back before the tribunal for pretrial hearings later this month.
Defense teams for all five defendants have repeatedly argued their clients were subjected to torture while being interrogated by CIA handlers at agency black sites reportedly located in Poland, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, and elsewhere.
Al Baluchi was reportedly the basis for the fictional detainee “Ammar,” who was subjected to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques at CIA black sites, in the 2012 film Zero Dark Thirty.
However, the defense teams have essentially been barred from introducing specific examples of the treatment their clients were subjected to under the agency’s interrogation program, since most, if not all, official records on the program are classified.
Other information on the CIA program, gained by unauthorized leaks to media outlets, are seen as largely inadmissible since they could not be verified by military prosecutors.
Should portions of the Senate report be declassified and released, it would have an “enormous impact on the culture of secrecy” that has surrounded the military tribunals in Cuba since the early 2000s, Connell said. “I think it is a game changer,” he added.
Sen. John McCain said he believed the lawmakers would approve declassification of portions of the controversial report, but the details would have no effect on the 9/11 military tribunals.
“I don’t know if those allegations” of torture by CIA will have any impact on the Guantanamo hearing, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told BuzzFeed on Tuesday. But he declined to comment further, until the Senate intelligence panel weighs in on declassifying the torture report.
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