Guantanamo court cleared to screen 'secret' YouTube video

Miami HeraldMay 1, 2010 

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — Officers on Saturday morning cleared the public from a war court hearing on whether Canadian captive Omar Khadr was tortured in U.S. custody to screen a 2003 era interrogation video just days after a prosecutor pledged "no secret evidence.''

Paradoxically, the videotape screened in secret was released by Canada's Supreme Court two years ago. It shows the Toronto's-born teen weeping in a Guantanamo interrogation booth, excerpts of which are widely available on the Internet.

But court security officers said the video, made in a trailer at this remote outpost, was still technically classified.

The development occurred on the fourth day of hearings in which Khadr's lawyers want a military judge to exclude the teen's various confessions to military and FBI interrogators from his summertime trial. They argue that because of his youth, and treatment, he did not voluntarily cooperate with his captors, a new standard for evidence at Barack Obama era military commissions.

An agent of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Jocelyn Dillard, testified that he cooperated while she and an FBI agent interrogated him at the prison camps hospital in 2003, once while he was receiving IV antibiotics because his year-old war wounds were festering.

Khadr, then 15, was captured in a July 2002 firefight between U.S. forces and al Qaeda suspects near Khost, Afghanistan. He allegedly hurled a grenade that killed Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, 28, before Khadr was himself shot twice through the back.

Prosecutors declined to seek the death penalty in the case, because of his age. Khadr, 23, is GuantÍnamo's youngest and last Western captive among the 183 now held here, and The Washington Post reported on Saturday that Obama administration officials were open to a plea agreement.

Saturday was the fourth day in a row for the hearings, which could last up to 12 days, and Khadr was missing for a third straight day.

Thursday, he refused to voluntarily don blinders for the 15-minute ride from the detention center to Camp Justice, complaining that they hurt his shrapnel-damaged eyes. On Friday, he rebuffed as humiliating a waistband search of his white uniform, which at the prison camps signifies a cooperative prison captive.

Saturday, a Marine captain reported that he waved her off after 5 a.m. prayers, without explanation, and that guards had taken him for a medical appointment Friday night then extended his recreation period to let him shoot hoops at the Camp 4 recreation area.

"Mr. Khadr was capable of playing basketball last evening,'' said Army Col. Patrick Parrish, the judge. "He is capable of participating this morning.''

The session opened on Wednesday with a pledge from case prosecutor Jeffrey Groharing, "There is no secret evidence in this case.''

Defense attorneys, not the Pentagon's prosecutors, asked to air the video at the war court. But the government agencies control interrogation videos, which are invariably classified.

The judge opened the rare Saturday session of the military commissions at 7:30 a.m. and by 9 a.m. had briefly cleared the courtroom for the video screening.

Only a dozen observers were in the gallery -- lawyers, three reporters, a sketch artist and a Canadian government observer.

All were escorted out of the hilltop courthouse and technicians cut a closed-circuit feed from the court to the media center in a crude abandoned airport hangar below.

During the blackout, journalists watched on Youtube.com chunks of the same video being screened in secret.

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