GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) — Lawyers for Guantanamo prisoners charged in the Sept. 11 attack say the FBI has questioned more support staff on their legal teams, a development that may prompt a new detour in an already snarled case as the war crimes tribunal reconvened Monday at this U.S. base.
The trial by military commission of the five prisoners was derailed in April when the attorney for one defendant revealed that a member of his support staff was questioned at home by the FBI and asked to provide information on others who work for the defense.
Lawyers say they have since learned that at least three others were questioned in two separate investigations over the past year. They want the judge to conduct a full hearing with witnesses into the issue despite government assurances that the investigations have been closed.
"The facts as we know them give rise to a potential conflict of interest, and when that happens, U.S. Supreme Court decisions are clear: The judge has an obligation to conduct a thorough inquiry," said David Nevin, the lead civilian attorney for defendant Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Little is publicly known about the two investigations. Lawyers say the FBI questioned an investigator and a classified material analyst for the team representing defendant Ramzi Binalshibh; an investigator for defendant Mustafa al-Hawsawi; and a translator on the team representing Mohammed, who has portrayed himself as the mastermind of the terror attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
James Harrington, a lawyer for Binalshibh, told the court his investigator denied speaking to the FBI and has left his team. "We have had basically a spy within our team for a number of months," he said.
Prosecutors have said the FBI questioned the evidence technician as part of a preliminary investigation into the mishandling of classified evidence and the probe ended without charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Fernando Campoamor-Sanchez, a Justice Department prosecutor, urged the judge to put the matter to rest since the FBI is no longer investigating anyone. "The case law really establishes very clearly that if there is no investigation there can be no conflict."