The US military tribunal in Guantanamo began a milestone procedure on May 5. Under arraignment are five Muslim terrorists captured several years ago. The most notorious is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the self-confessed mastermind of 9/11, who proudly proclaimed that he personally decapitated Jewish Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl with his “blessed right hand.” The others are co-conspirators. Some family members of 9/11 victims, and a select group of journalists, watched the proceedings in the courtroom or via live video feed.
In an earlier FrontPageMag.com article, Rick Moran discussed the subversive tactics of the defendants’ lawyers, filing hundreds of motions to delay process and undermine the legitimacy of the entire procedure. The present writer examines another aspect of the arraignment, the difference between two newspapers’ coverage and the significance of that difference.
The New York Times describes the detainees’ behavior as defiant but mostly quiet: passively ignoring the tribunal’s president, Col. James Pohl, refusing to wear headphones (for simultaneous Arabic translation), or kneeling to pray in the courtroom. The article notes that the five terrorists did display some aggressive disruptions during the pre-trial motions, but neglects to describe them as other than “frequent outbursts.” One terrorist was in the courtroom in a restraining wheel chair for reasons unknown. The Times reporter failed to note that by removing their headphones, the detainees effectively brought the proceedings to a halt because international legal custom since the Nuremberg trials (1946) requires simultaneous translation. [i]
Their action, therefore, was obviously intended to torpedo, or at least delay, the court proceedings. To circumvent this sabotage, Col. Pohl intrepidly used a translator with a loudspeaker. The defendants’ lawyers complained, but neither the lawyers nor the reporter seemed to notice that the inconvenience was the result of the detainees’ own actions.
Another attempt at sabotaging the proceedings, mentioned but not explained in the Times account, was the refusal of one terrorist to leave his cell and come to the courtroom. His lawyer sought a court order to prevent prison guards from forcibly extracting him from his cell, but Col. Pohl refused, noting that no detainee had the right to not appear before the court. This same lawyer, Cheryl Borman, appeared before the court wearing Muslim garb covering everything but her face. She also admonished women on the prosecuting team to “consider dressing more modestly so that the defendants would not have to avoid looking at them ‘for fear of committing a sin against their faith.’” The reporter, and apparently Ms. Borman as well, failed to note the striking irony that while looking at an immodestly clad woman would be a sin against their faith, mass murder of almost 3,000 innocent civilians apparently was not.
The article also mentions the terrorists’ claims of torture at the hands of their captors in Guantanamo, but neglects to point out that captured el-Qaeda manuals instruct terrorists to always complain of torture and accuse the captors of mistreating them. It also fails to note that the American forces involved in the capture and detainment of these terrorists strenuously deny having tortured them.
The Times also ran a short article on the victims’ families present in the courtroom or watching via live video feed. This report was as muted as the one described above, except for one note that “defendants repeatedly and persistently disrupted the courtroom…” In a follow-up article in the NY Times of May 7, 2012, we learn that the defendants’ lawyers claim that the terrorists’ non-cooperation was really a justified protest against an “unjust system;” although there is no indication of what exactly is unjust about a military tribunal for terrorists who proudly proclaim their guilt.
In sum, all three NY Times articles describe the behavior of the defendants at the tribunal as, for the most part, passively non-cooperative with occasional passive resistance, and a few understandable noisy outbursts.