It shouldn't have been such a difficult issue. After all, defendants on trial for mass murder in a death penalty case often aren't happy with how things are going. That may include being disappointed with their lawyers. But that's in federal court. The military commissions are different.
When Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, called a military judge's order "outrageous" earlier this week, they probably didn't intend to throw a wrench into the pending 9/11 military commission case.
An Army judge at Guantanamo Bay on Thursday refused to allow one of the five defendants charged with orchestrating the 9/11 attacks to dismiss his lead lawyer, ruling the accused hadn't shown the necessary "good cause" to do so.
The hearing ensued in confusion, as the attorneys and judge argued over what the law is, who's required to explain it to the defendant and how bin Attash can inform the judge why he wants a new lawyer. Underlying the entire discussion was a sense that no one in the room knows all the relevant facts.
The news that Attorney General Eric Holder would be stepping down sent a shockwave through Washington. On the whole, was his term worth praising or condemning? We have to say that "both" is the only real answer to that question.
The FBI's Secret Investigation of the 9/11 Defense Teams: The Mystery Continues, and Could Compromise the Case
As James Harrington, lawyer for Ramzi bin al Shibh, told the court on Monday: "We now have to represent to our client that we had a spy within our team for a number of months. We don't know what activities that spy did." Will Harrington's client ever trust his defense team again? Should he? And if he can't, can he ever truly receive a fair defense?
A military lawyer representing the mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is resigning from the U.S. Army, which was trying to force him off Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's defense team on the grounds that he needed to attend a graduate course this year.