'Zero Dark Thirty' Character Really Was Injured by the CIA, Attorney Says
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GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (CN) - One of the suspected plotters in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks - depicted being tortured in the movie "Zero Dark Thirty" - suffered a head injury in CIA custody, his attorney said Wednesday.
Defense attorney James Connell claimed the revelation was the second declassified fact about the treatment of Ammar al-Baluchi, one of five defendants being tried in connection with the attacks.
Other than that, "the only declassified fact" about al-Baluchi is that he is the basis for the character "Ammar" in the Kathryn Bigelow movie, the lawyer added. Members of Congress and others have criticized the movie for presenting a rosy view of the supposed effectiveness of torture.
Before this week of hearings, al-Baluchi's lawyers filed a motion seeking to pull the film's writer Mark Boal into the war court to find out what information the CIA may have given to him and not the defense counsel.
The matter is not expected to be heard at this week's hearings.
Al-Baluchi and the four other defendants, including self-professed "mastermind" Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, are trying to gain access to information that may corroborate that they were abused.
Their attorneys say they want to investigate the allegations in Congress, international litigation and elsewhere, but cannot, because of a rule that their client's memory of mistreatment is classified information.
Connell on Monday told the military judge, Col. James Pohl, that former U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak, if allowed to testify, would say that such a position is unprecedented.
On Tuesday, the attorney displayed a document that showed that al-Baluchi told identified doctors that he suffered from memory loss, hallucinations and delusions from a head injury he got before 2006, the year he was sent to Guantanamo. He spent the previous three years in secret prisons overseas.
"These records just moldered away in reports to psychiatrists," Connell said, referring to the accounts of his meetings with the doctors.
Prosecutor Clay Trivett argued that al-Baluchi and his alleged co-conspirators should not be allowed to share the "sensitive sources and methods" they were "exposed to" in CIA custody, when "we were at war and we needed intelligence."
For Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, who represents Mustafa al-Hawsawi, this line of argument boiled down to stating: "We captured him and we wanted to torture him, and it's OK because we were at war."
After Trivett objected to this characterization, Judge Pohl waved off the concern by stating that he would interpret the prosecutor's words as they were recorded in the record, rather than how Ruiz had stated it.
Ruiz pressed on by arguing that the "sources and methods" the prosecutor had been referring to were those banned by the Convention Against Torture, which the United States ratified in 1994.
The treaty does not make exceptions validating such abuse during wartime, he said.
"Every nation that has ever been at war has wanted to kill the enemy or torture them," the Navy commander said. "We want to transcend that."
On Tuesday, prosecutor Trivett bristled at the attention that defense attorneys are putting on this topic, saying that the case is about the "summary execution" of nearly 3,000 people at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Proceedings turned briefly away from the torture allegations late Wednesday to turn to discovery matters, but the focus remained on classification issues.
In particular, Connell complained about the scope of the redactions in FBI investigative forms, known as 302s. He said that more than 7,600 documents, consisting of 9,913 pages, contain more than 128,000 redactions, an average of about 13 redactions per page.
The lawyer illustrated this by saying that if every blacked or whited-out line were replaced with the word "redacted" and placed side by side, the words would extend from Guantanamo's Leeward Point to Windward Point.
The reference was not lost by observers of the trial, who must travel this more-than-2-mile watery span to get from the part of the island with the airport to the side with the courtroom.