U.S. Waited Months to Book C.I.A. Prisoners at Guantánamo Bay

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Defense lawyers said the hold formed into uncertainty whether samples taken from the captives could beryllium considered valid evidence.

Military committee  proceedings for detainees charged with warfare  crimes are held astatine  Camp Justice successful  Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Credit...Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Carol Rosenberg

Dec. 15, 2021, 1:59 p.m. ET

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — Criminal investigators astatine Guantánamo Bay waited astir 3 months earlier obtaining DNA samples and fingerprints from the accused plotters of the attacks connected Sept. 11, 2001, and the U.S.S. Cole, it was disclosed this week, further deepening the enigma of who was liable for the prisoners successful their earliest days here.

The question of who was successful complaint — the C.I.A. oregon the U.S. subject — is cardinal to defence lawyers’ efforts to exclude imaginable grounds from 2 death-penalty cases astatine Guantánamo. The lawyers person argued that years of C.I.A. detention and torture of the prisoners person tainted the evidence.

The contented of work for the prisoners is truthful delicate that nationalist information censors precocious redacted a connection made successful tribunal by a defence lawyer for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is accused of plotting the Sept. 11 attacks. Rita J. Radostitz, the lawyer, told the tribunal connected Nov. 19 that successful the months aft the detainees’ transportation to the subject situation zone, their guards were moving for the C.I.A., not the Defense Department. Prosecutors did not protestation astatine the time, and nary 1 utilized the mute fastener to artifact audio of classified information. But the remark was aboriginal blacked retired from the nationalist transcript of the proceedings.

In the Sept. 11 case, lawyers are successful the midst of galore months of witnesser grounds to assistance the proceedings justice find whether successful aboriginal 2007, aft years successful C.I.A. custody, Mr. Mohammed and different defendants freely described to F.B.I. interrogators their roles successful the Sept. 11 attacks. Prosecutors telephone the grounds cardinal proceedings evidence; defence lawyers accidental the prisoners told the agents what the C.I.A. had groomed them to say done torture and years of isolation astatine concealed detention facilities known arsenic achromatic sites.

Lawyers for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi captive who is accused of readying Al Qaeda’s termination bombing of the U.S.S. Cole successful Aden harbor successful Yemen successful October 2000, besides see his interrogation by the F.B.I. successful 2007 to beryllium involuntary.

Mr. Nashiri is 1 of 3 prisoners the C.I.A. has confirmed it waterboarded to get accusation aft his apprehension successful Dubai successful October 2002. Between 2002 and 2006, helium was held successful a bid of concealed C.I.A.-run prisons overseas, including a achromatic tract astatine Guantánamo Bay. The Guantánamo site, called Echo II, operated successful 2003 and 2004. C.I.A. guards determination dressed arsenic soldiers, and F.B.I. agents interrogated detainees determination successful 2007.

Mr. Nashiri’s lawyers person been calling witnesses this period successful an effort to transportation the justice to exclude a portion of cardinal proceedings grounds successful that case: a swab of Mr. Nashiri’s feature taken astatine Guantánamo that partially matched a DNA illustration taken from a tract successful Aden, Yemen, that was an reflection constituent for the U.S.S. Cole bombing, which killed 17 U.S. sailors.

Defense lawyers reason that Mr. Nashiri was successful his 4th twelvemonth of U.S. custody and that nether the Fourth Amendment, the instrumentality enforcement authorities needed to get a warrant from a subject oregon national tribunal to instrumentality the feature swab and different samples. The judge, Col. Lanny J. Acosta Jr., agreed to perceive the statement adjacent arsenic a higher tribunal was considering whether a captive astatine Guantánamo Bay is entitled to owed process rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

In tribunal connected Monday, Mark A. Miller, a prosecutor, called the postulation of the samples connected Nov. 30, 2006 — much than 80 days aft the detainees were brought to Guantánamo — “pursuant to a modular protocol” for a idiosyncratic “coming into a captive of warfare facility” oregon a “law of warfare facility.”

No mentation was offered for the delay, though the detainee processing took spot aft President George W. Bush announced connected Sept. 6, 2006, that the prisoners were astatine Guantánamo. One crushed for the disclosure, helium said, was that “to commencement the process for bringing them to trial, we indispensable bring them into the open.” Mr. Nashiri was arraigned successful 2011, and the lawsuit has been repeatedly stalled done higher tribunal challenges.

Several instrumentality enforcement agents connected Monday described how, during their duty to the Criminal Investigation Task Force, a prosecution enactment enactment created by the Defense Department, they undertook the postulation process connected Nov. 30, 2006, successful their archetypal brushwood with the erstwhile C.I.A. detainees. The agents operated what Mr. Miller called an “assembly line” to photograph, fingerprint and instrumentality DNA samples of each of the 14 prisoners, who were shackled astatine the wrists and ankles and guided done the process by 2 guards.

None of the men protested, complained oregon mentioned mistreatment, said Chief Warrant Officer Leona Mansapit of the Army. A subject constabulary worker astatine the time, she took fingerprints from immoderate of the prisoners. “It was precise routine,” she said, speech from the precocious hour.

An researcher who took portion successful the processing, George E. Boyles, who had served successful instrumentality enforcement and subject roles since the precocious 1980s, said that evening astatine Guantánamo Bay was the lone juncture successful his vocation that helium had taken what was fundamentally booking samples of suspects successful their 4th twelvemonth successful custody.

Capt. Brian L. Mizer of the Navy, a subject defence lawyer for Mr. Nashiri, accused the prosecutors of advancing “a sham statement that this was a regular booking process happening 3 months aft they got present and 4 years aft they came into U.S. custody.” Such procedures are done astatine the clip of an arrest, Mr. Nashiri’s lawyers said, to corroborate an individuality oregon cheque for apprehension warrants.

“I truly don’t cognize wherever they were astatine earlier I saw them connected Guantánamo Bay,” said Sheldon J. Beddo, a Naval Criminal Investigative Service cause who was based determination successful 2006 and oversaw the grounds postulation astatine “a determination I was not acquainted with” made up of prefabricated buildings.

The question of who was successful power of the detainees astatine Guantánamo Bay during that play has been successful quality for years. In 2014, a Senate Intelligence Committee survey not lone disclosed that determination had been 2 C.I.A. achromatic sites astatine the Navy basal but besides described Camp 7, the situation wherever Mr. Nashiri, Mr. Mohammed and different high-value detainees were held, arsenic nether the operational power of the C.I.A. during their archetypal months astatine Guantánamo.

A erstwhile Army officer, however, has testified anonymously that helium was successful complaint of Camp 7 from the time the detainees arrived, adjacent if the guards determination were not Defense Department employees.

The prisoners who were brought to Guantánamo successful 2006 spent their archetypal period successful isolation earlier their archetypal meetings with delegates of the International Red Cross, the humanitarian enactment that visits prisoners and tin present messages to families and registry complaints astir conditions with the detaining authority.

Mr. Nashiri was interrogated by F.B.I. and N.C.I.S. agents successful aboriginal 2007 and had a presumption proceeding earlier a subject committee successful March of that year. He was allowed to spot a lawyer for the archetypal clip successful 2008.

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