Defense lawyers and lawyers with the American Civil Liberties Union argued that the government was exceeding its authority by declaring that anything Mohammed or his co-defendants might say would involve the disclosure of sensitive CIA sources and methods.
“We are profoundly disappointed by the military judge’s decision, which doesn’t even address the serious First Amendment issues at stake here,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s national security project.
“The government wanted to ensure that the American public would never hear the defendants’ accounts of illegal CIA torture, rendition, and detention,” she said in a statement. “The military judge has gone along with that shameful plan.”
Ms. Shamsi said the ACLU would attempt to appeal the ruling.
“For now, the most important terrorism trial of our time will be organized around judicially approved censorship of the defendants’ own thoughts, experiences, and memories of CIA torture,” she said. “The decision undermines the government’s claim that the military commission system is transparent.”
Although some details of their treatment have been made public, there has never been a full public accounting of what was done to certain terror suspects, including Mohammed, in the name of protecting US national security.
Officials have acknowledged that Mohammed was subjected to a particularly brutal interrogation technique known as waterboarding. Reports are that he was subjected to the technique 183 times.
Human rights advocates say waterboarding is torture. The US government says it did not and does not engage in torture.
The issue is important in Mohammed’s military commission trial because the jury that decides the case must be able to assess the credibility and veracity of the government’s evidence.
Some of the evidence may have been obtained during coercive interrogations. But if any mention of interrogations is barred, jurors may not be in a position to make a full assessment of certain pieces of evidence.