Defense Seeks Suspension of 9/11 Hearings Due to Fears of Government Eavesdropping

In this photo of a sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin and reviewed by the U.S. Department of Defense, top from left to r
In this photo of a sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin and reviewed by the U.S. Department of Defense, top from left to right, Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, Ammar al Baluchi, Ramzi Binalshibh, Walid bin Attash and Khalid Sheikh Mohammedreads attend their military hearing as 9/11 victims family members observe from a gallery and a defense lawyer addresses the judge at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, Saturday, May 5, 2012. The self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed repeatedly declined to respond to a judge's questions Saturday and his co-defendant Walid bin Attash was briefly restrained at a military hearing as five men charged with the worst terror attack in U.S. history appeared in public for the first time in more than three years. (AP Photo/Janet Hamlin, Pool)

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's lawyer on Thursday morning asked the military commission judge presiding over the trial of the five accused masterminds of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to halt all court proceedings until the court could determine who might be listening in on defense lawyers' conversations.

"Until this question is resolved, it's impossible to know if we're fulfilling our ethical obligations" to maintain the confidentiality of attorney-client communications, David Nevin told Judge James Pohl this morning, handing him a file of papers that he said contained an "emergency motion to abate the proceedings" until "we get to the bottom of this."

On Tuesday, Judge Pohl said that he didn't understand the courtroom technology well enough to know who hears the real-time audio feed, or whether it might include what defense lawyers say to their clients, or to each other, if their courtroom microphones are on.

Today, although he didn't explain the technology or indicate whether he understood it any more clearly, he announced: "This is the last time that an OCA [original classification authority] or any other third party will be able to unilaterally decide that the broadcast will be suspended."

He did not say, however, that he would or could control who else might be listening in. As he clarified later: "There will be all sorts of transmissions to third parties. There will be no ability for any third party to interrupt any broadcast."

The defense motion to suspend the proceedings won't be heard until the week of Feb. 11, when hearings in the 9/11 case are expected to resume.