May 10, 2012 / 12:52 AM / 8 years ago

Missing words from 9-11 tribunal: CIA and "big-boy pants"

MIAMI (Reuters) - The Pentagon revealed on Wednesday what was said when an over-cautious court security officer blocked the sound during Saturday’s arraignment of five Guantanamo prisoners charged with plotting the September 11 attacks.

Mustafa al Hawsawi, Ammar al Baluchi, Ramzi bin al Shibh, Walid Bin Attash, and Khalik Sheikh Mohammad, pray at their arraignment in this courtroom sketch reviewed and approved for release by a U.S. military security official, at Guantanamo Bay Navy Base, Cuba, May 5, 2012. REUTERS/Janet Hamlin/Pool

It was a snide reference to Bush-era CIA interrogators, a transcript showed. Air Force Captain Michael Schwartz was explaining why defendant Walid Bin Attash was refusing to cooperate during the hearing in the Guantanamo war crimes tribunal.

“The reason for that is the torture that my client was subjected to by the men and women wearing the big-boy pants down at the CIA, it makes it impossible ...” Schwartz said during the blocked portion of the arraignment.

That was a dig at Jose Rodriguez, the former director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Services, who described in a recent interview with the CBS television show “60 Minutes” how the agency obtained legal authorization from the Bush White House to use “enhanced interrogation techniques” on suspected al Qaeda captives.

“We needed to get everybody in government to put their big-boy pants on and provide the authorities that we needed,” Rodriguez said in the interview.

Spectators in the top-security courtroom at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. naval base did not hear Schwartz’s remark during Saturday’s hearing. They sit behind a glass wall and listen to the courtroom conversation via an audio feed that is delayed by 40 seconds.

When it appeared Schwartz was venturing into classified territory about the CIA treatment of his client, the court security officer blocked the audio feed with ‘white noise’ static.

The Pentagon office in charge of the tribunals conducted a review and decided nothing secret had been disclosed. The agency released a transcript of the muffled portion on Wednesday, which covered less than a page.

Bin Attash and his co-defendants, including the admitted mastermind of the 2001 hijacked plane attacks on the United States, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, were formally arraigned during the hearing on death penalty charges that include murdering 2,976 people.

The defendants are alleged al Qaeda operatives who were held in secret CIA prisons for about three years before being sent to Guantanamo in 2006. All have said they were tortured and the CIA has acknowledged subjecting Mohammed to the simulated drowning technique known as water boarding 183 times.

Rodriguez said in the interview that the interrogation methods produced valuable information that helped save lives.

Guantanamo defense attorneys say it was torture, and will argue that it is a mitigating factor that should prevent the 9-11 defendants from being executed if they are convicted.

Their trial is not expected to start for at least a year.

Editing by Jane Sutton and Lisa Shumaker

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