A Train Derailment, a Tropical Storm and the Guantanamo Terrorists Hearings

Sailors pile sandbags against the walls of Naval Security Forces headquarters at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Aug. 22, 2012, in preparation for wind and rain from tropical storm Isaac. (DOD photo by Cheryl Pellerin)

We have all been shocked by the coal-train derailment in suburban Baltimore in the early hours of Aug. 21 that killed two young women.

We have also been watching the projected path and progress of tropical storm Isaac and how the potential hurricane might impact the upcoming Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla.

It is interesting how these two unrelated events have affected and continue to affect the scheduled hearings of five accused 9/11 detainees at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

First, the hearings that were scheduled to begin on Wednesday were delayed for one day after the deadly train derailment in suburban Baltimore damaged fiber-optic lines that carry Internet traffic to and from Guantanamo Bay and caused loss of Internet connectivity for the base and for the Office of Military Commissions, hindering the ability of the defense team, according to an emergency motion filed by the team.

Today, the American Forces Press Service reports that Military commissions judge Army Col. James L. Pohl has postponed the hearings that were scheduled to begin today because of impending weather conditions — approaching tropical storm Isaac — concern for the safety and welfare of personnel, and a recommendation by the station’s commanding officer.

Consequently, “lawyers, observers and media are leaving the island today after the base commanding officer recommended their evacuation ahead of tropical storm Isaac’s projected path to Cuba.”

The hearings are in the case of the United States v. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi.

The five men are charged with murder, hijacking and terrorism. They had been held at secret CIA prisons overseas and were transferred to Guantanamo in 2006, where they have been imprisoned at a high-security facility known as Camp 7.

No new date was set for the hearings.

Additionally from the American Forces Press Service:

Around the 45-square-mile naval base, people were busy with preparations for tropical storm Isaac. Some weather models are forecasting that the storm’s winds and rain could make landfall on the island the afternoon of Aug. 25, affecting Cuba’s southeast corner, where the base was established in 1903.

“I recommended that all the lawyers and everybody [who is part of the Office of Military Commissions] leave and come back [at a later date] and restart. But it’s not my decision, it’s my recommendation,” Nettleton told reporters before the postponement. His recommendation for evacuation, he noted, included nonessential personnel and visitors.

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As the storm pushes rain and heavy winds toward Cuba, he said, preparations on the island include cleaning up debris that the winds could turn into missiles, closing the hangars, securing buildings, moving people who are at risk into sturdier buildings, and hauling boats out of the water.

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Nettleton said several hundred nonessential personnel and visitors will leave the island, leaving roughly 5,600 residents, including service members, workers and families, and their pets.

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The suggestion to evacuate nonessential personnel and visitors was “a conservative call,” he said, “[but] it’s one I’m always going to make, because it’s about lives.”

No word on the fate of the detainees. However the Washington Post reports:

On Wednesday, a military spokesman at the Guantanamo detention center said most of the detainees are housed in concrete structures that can withstand the effects of hurricane-force winds; those who are not will be transferred to secure structures. Officials said they are also preparing to evacuate nonessential personnel, representatives of human rights groups and reporters from the island.

  

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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1 Comment

  1. They hardly ever have hurricanes in New York state. Just sayin’.

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