In 2011, the Army appointed Maj. Jason Wright to the defense team for one of the highest-profile defendants in the world: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Army ordered Wright to complete a required year-long graduate course, during which time he could not serve on Mohammed's defense team. Wright says that course is commonly deferred for those serving on capital cases, but this year his request for deferral was denied.
On Aug. 26, Wright resigned from the Army and left the defense team, saying his reassignment interfered with the defense team's ability to provide adequate counsel.
Wright told his story to Weekends on All Things Considered host Arun Rath. NPR reached out to the Pentagon for a response to some of Wright's allegations, and Lt. Col. Myles B. Caggins III, Defense Department spokesperson for Military Commissions, provided the following statements. Those statements, in caps, are as they were received by NPR.
Regarding the presence of listening devices in attorney-client meeting rooms and the FBI's interaction with a member of Ramzi bin al-Shibh's legal defense team:
"THERE ARE NO LISTENING DEVICES IN ROOMS WHERE DETAINEES MEET WITH THEIR LEGAL COUNSEL. UNTIL LAST YEAR, WHEN THE GOVERNMENT VOLUNTARILY DISCLOSED THE FACT TO THE MILITARY COMMISSION JUDGE, THE ROOMS USED FOR ATTORNEY-CLIENT MEETINGS HAD BEEN SET UP FOR SEPARATE USE AS LAW ENFORCEMENT INTERVIEW ROOMS. POLICE STATIONS THROUGHOUT THE UNITED STATES HAVE MICROPHONES IN INTERVIEW ROOMS FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE, AND SPACE LIMITATIONS AT GUANTANAMO BAY HAD RESULTED IN DUAL-USE ROOMS BEING CONSTRUCTED. THE PROSECUTION HAS NEVER LISTENED TO A SINGLE ATTORNEY-CLIENT COMMUNICATION, AND NO ENTITY OF THE U.S. GOVERNMENT IS LISTENING TO, MONITORING, OR RECORDING ATTORNEY-CLIENT COMMUNICATIONS AT THE DETENTION FACILITY IN GUANTANAMO BAY. IN HOURS OF ADVERSARIAL PROCEEDINGS DEDICATED TO DEFENSE COUNSEL ALLEGATIONS AND CONCERNS ON THIS MATTER, NO EVIDENCE HAS SUGGESTED OTHERWISE. THE MILITARY COMMISSION JUDGE HAS DENIED DEFENSE REQUESTS TO STOP THE PROCEEDINGS BASED ON THESE ALLEGATIONS AND CONCERNS.
A SPECIAL COUNSEL WAS DETAILED TO INVESTIGATE THE PURPOSES OF THE INQUIRY INTO RAMZI BIN AL-SHIBH'S DEFENSE TEAM. THIS MATTER—AND DEFENSE ALLEGATIONS THAT THE INQUIRY CREATED A CONFLICT OF INTEREST BETWEEN COUNSEL AND CLIENT—REMAIN UNDER CONSIDERATION BY THE MILITARY COMMISSION JUDGE AND WILL LIKELY BE ADDRESSED DURING PRE-TRIAL HEARINGS FOR THE 9/11 DEFENDANTS IN OCTOBER. TRANSCRIPTS OF MILITARY COMMISSIONS HEARINGS ARE PUBLICALLY AVAILABLE AT WWW.MC.MIL , AND CITIZENS WITH AN INTEREST IN VIEWING THE PROCEEDINGS CAN DO SO BY CLOSED CIRCUIT TELEVISION TRANSMISSION AT FORT MEADE, MARYLAND—DETAILS ABOUT DOING SO ARE ALSO ON THE WEBSITE."
Requesting comment on Wright's claim that the government has impeded the defense teams' ability to provide adequate counsel:
"UNDER THE MILITARY COMMISSIONS ACT OF 2009, CONGRESS HAS PROVIDED FOR EACH DEFENDANT TO BE REPRESENTED BY A HIGHLY-QUALIFIED LEGAL TEAM, THOUGH NO DEFENDANT CAN BE REQUIRED TO USE THESE PUBLICLY-APPOINTED COUNSEL. EACH SUCH TEAM INCLUDES CIVILIAN COUNSEL WITH EXTENSIVE EXPERIENCE IN CAPITAL CASES. ADDITIONALLY, EACH DEFENDANT IS APPOINTED A MILITARY LAWYER, LIKE MAJOR JASON WRIGHT, AND OTHERS WHO ARE BAR CERTIFIED AND WELL-VERSED IN MILITARY LAW AND PROCEDURE. TO DATE, THE OFFICE OF MILITARY COMMISSIONS HAS SPENT HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS ON THE LEGAL DEFENSE OF EACH OF THE ACCUSED 9/11 PLOTTERS. MAJOR WRIGHT HAS HAD FULL OPPORTUNITY TO PRESENT MATTERS TO THE MILITARY COMMISSION JUDGE AND TO ARGUE THAT HIS DEPARTURE WOULD VIOLATE THE RIGHT TO EFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL. TO DATE, THERE HAS BEEN NO SUCH FINDING.
IN ADDITION TO THE COUNSEL REQUIRED BY THE MCA, THE GOVERNMENT HAS PROVIDED THE DEFENSE TEAM WITH ADDITIONAL MILITARY COUNSEL, AN INTERPRETER, MITIGATION EXPERTS, AN INVESTIGATOR, ANALYSTS, AND PARALEGALS. THE GOVERNMENT ALSO FUNDS THE TRAVEL OF ALL OF THESE INDIVIDUALS AS THEY RESEARCH, INVESTIGATE, AND PREPARE THEIR CASE. THERE IS ALSO A PROCESS IN PLACE WHERE A DEFENSE COUNSEL CAN REQUEST ADDITIONAL RESOURCES, AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE, SUCH AS EXPERT CONSULTANTS. ANY DECISION BY THE GOVERNMENT TO DENY AN EXPERT OR ADDITIONAL PERSONNEL RESOURCE IS SUBJECT TO JUDICIAL REVIEW.
PROVISION OF ADEQUATE COUNSEL IS REQUIRED BY LAW. WHILE EXPERIENCE DEMONSTRATES THAT ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIPS DO NOT ALWAYS THRIVE REGARDLESS OF ENVIRONMENT, GUANTANAMO DETAINEES HAVE EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO FORM SUCH A RELATIONSHIP. FOR INSTANCE, IN THE TWO MOST RECENT MILITARY COMMISSION CONVICTIONS OF MID-LEVEL AL QAEDA OFFICERS, THE ACCUSED USED AND RECEIVED VERY CAPABLE REPRESENTATION OF PUBLICLY-APPOINTED DEFENSE COUNSEL.
DATA INDICATING THE EXTENSIVE OPPORTUNITIES PROVIDED FOR ATTORNEY-CLIENT MEETINGS CAN BE SEEN AT PAGE 21 OF THE ATTACHED FILE "KSM II (AE254N(GOV)).PDF", WHICH IS A PUBLIC FILING AVAILABLE AT THE WEBSITE. (KHALID SHAIKH MOHAMMAD'S INTERNMENT SERIAL NUMBER IS 10024). MAJOR WRIGHT MADE HIS MOST RECENT PRESENTATION TO THE JUDGE ABOUT HIS DECISION TO LEAVE ACTIVE DUTY ON THE MORNING OF 14 AUGUST (SEE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT FROM THE WEBSITE, PROCEEDINGS BEGINNING AT PAGE 8239 AND GOING TO PAGE 8246)."
Responding to Wright's view that the military commission for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed amounts to a "show trial":
"THE ON-GOING DETENTION OF KHALID SHEIKH MOHAMMED IS FULLY CONSISTENT WITH THE LAW OF ARMED CONFLICT, AND THAT DETENTION IS REVIEWABLE BY PETITION FOR HABEAS CORPUS IN UNITED STATES FEDERAL CIVILIAN COURT. MEANWHILE, TRIALS UNDER THE MILITARY COMMISSIONS ACT HAVE THE IMPORTANT PURPOSE OF DETERMINING WHETHER AN ACCUSED IS GUILTY BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT OF SERIOUS CRIMES AGAINST THE LAW OF ARMED CONFLICT. THE REPATRIATION TO THEIR HOME COUNTRIES OF CONVICTED DETAINEES WHO HAVE COMPLETED THE SENTENCES OF YEARS IMPOSED BY MILITARY COMMISSIONS UNDERCUTS THOSE WHO CHARACTERIZE THIS PROCESS AS SOMETHING OTHER THAN THE FAIR AND SHARPLY ADVERSARIAL TRIAL PROCESS THE JUDGE AND COUNSEL ARE DAILY WORKING TO UPHOLD.
TO DATE THERE HAVE BEEN MORE THAN 160 MOTIONS FILED BY COUNSEL IN THE TRIAL OF KSM AND HIS CO-DEFENDANTS. THE COMMISSION HAS RECEIVED TESTIMONY FROM 22 WITNESSES IN MORE THAN 65 HOURS OF TESTIMONY, WITH ALL WITNESSES SUBJECT TO CROSS-EXAMINATION, TO ASSIST IT IN DECIDING PRE-TRIAL MOTIONS."