The Guantánamo Bay trial proceedings for alleged terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed hit a speed bump on Monday:
The courtroom is set up so that spectators behind sound-proof glass can listen to an audio feed with a forty-second delay. As Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald describes it, “A red emergency light spins in court when a censor at the judge’s elbow hits the mute button to prevent someone from spilling national security secrets.” At just before 2:30 P.M., David Nevin, one of the defense lawyers, who was addressing a brief having to do with C.I.A. secret prisons, said he understood that “we are going to do this in a 505 and that some portion of this will turn out to be closed or secret.” As he pronounced “secret,” the light began to flash and white noise filled the audio feed, as if it had been a trigger word—even though neither the security officer or the judge had touched the button. That’s when the judge, James Pohl, realized that he was not, as he’d thought—given the trappings and the job title—running his own courtroom. Some unknown person in another room was, and was apparently able to turn the audio off or on, or, for all anyone knew, pipe in the soundtrack to “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Judge Pohl, who is also an Army colonel, was confused and angry.
“If some external body is turning the commission off under their own view of what things ought to be, with no reasonable explanation because I—there is no classification on it, then we are going to have a little meeting about who turns that light on or off,” the judge said.