By Richard A. Serrano, Tribune Washington Bureau
FORT MEADE, Md. — The military judge in the Sept. 11 conspiracy case signaled Tuesday he may order FBI agents to describe their secret investigation into whether members of the defense teams for al-Qaida leader Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and others illegally leaked a “manifesto” written by the alleged 9/11 mastermind about his time at the Guantanamo Bay prison.
The judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, asked defense lawyers for Mohammed and four other alleged conspirators to notify him by 5 p.m. Wednesday which FBI agents and other government officials they want him to question as part of the probe. Pohl is responding to complaints from defense lawyers that FBI agents improperly visited a court-appointed member of the defense team at his home and asked him to sign an agreement to cooperate with FBI’s leak investigation.
The agents visited the man, who is acting as a defense security officer, after he returned home from church on April 6. He reported the meeting to his employer, the private contractor SRA International Inc. in Fairfax, Va., and the meeting was then reported to defense lawyers for alleged conspirator Ramzi Binalshibh.
The security officer is assigned to work on the Binalshibh defense team. He carries a top-secret security clearance and vets information in the case to help decide what should be classified or made public.
James Harrington, the lead attorney for Binalshibh, said the unnamed security officer has “unlimited access to our files,” suggesting that the government was trying to spy on the defense teams.
At Tuesday’s pre-trial session, the judge asked Ed Ryan, a Justice Department attorney, whether the FBI would resist being questioned about the matter.
Ryan was unsure but added that he thought “it would be gravely mistaken to go down the road of trying to look into an investigation being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”
The FBI leak investigation was prompted after several media outlets received a “manifesto” written by Mohammed about his years at the Guantanamo prison.
The hearings are being held at Guantanamo Bay and screened at Fort Meade. All of the defendants have pleaded not guilty.
AFP Photo/Chantal Valery