9/11 hearing delay sought over hacked emails

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Lawyers for the five men accused of plotting the September 11 attacks asked a judge on Thursday to delay an upcoming hearing after learning that emails with their clients had been monitored.

The surveillance was only the latest instance of compromised confidentiality at Guantanamo Bay, following revelations earlier this year that secret censors could block a public feed of court proceedings and that listening devices masked as smoke detectors were hidden in meeting rooms.

The next preliminary hearing for the Sept 11 defendants had been set to take place on April 22 at the United States (US) military base at Guantanamo.

Mr James Connell, a lawyer for Pakistan's Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, said he had filed an emergency motion to the military judge presiding over the case "to pause proceedings in the 9/11 trial after revelations that defense email communications and computer files have been compromised".

"This new disclosure is simply the latest in a series of revelations of courtroom monitoring, hidden surveillance devices and legal bin searches," he added.

Military commissions Judge Colonel James Pohl has delayed for the same reasons a hearing for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri of Saudi Arabia until mid-June.

The hearing for the man accused of masterminding the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole had originally been set to begin Monday.

In response to the claims, the military's chief defense counsel, Colonel Karen Mayberry, ordered all attorneys representing detainees before the court to stop using their computers for confidential email and court documents.

The email surveillance "follows on the heels of the seizure of over 500,000 emails containing attorney-client privileged communications, as well as the loss of significant amount of defense work product contained in shared folders", said Commander Walter Ruiz, a lawyer for Saudi defendant Mustafa al-Hawsawi.

The order to stop using servers and emails, "essentially cripples our ability to operate", he said.

Nashiri and the five men accused of plotting 9/11 face the death penalty.

During the last 9/11 hearing, it was revealed that all conversations, including those whispered, between the accused and their lawyers could be heard by government monitors, whether they took place in the courtroom or in offices where they meet behind closed doors.

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