Fiber optic link to Guantánamo cut by train derailment

Miami HeraldAugust 21, 2012 

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba -- A train derailment in Maryland cut internet service between the war court compound here and the Pentagon on Tuesday, forcing a day’s delay of pretrial hearings in the Sept. 11 terror case.

The delay came as Guantánamo visitors, notably reporters living in a tent city called Camp Justice, began watching National Hurricane Center reports of Tropical Storm Isaac, which threatens to drench the base by the weekend.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers for accused 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four alleged accomplices had been traveling to the base since last week and were making final preparations for court when they found themselves knocked off the internet before dawn Tuesday.

Even the Pentagon’s chief war crimes prosecutor, an Army brigadier general, lost service. It was being restored in phases Tuesday afternoon. In between, Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, lawyer for Saudi defendant Mustafa al Hawsawi, characterized the outage as the latest resource challenge to the Sept. 11 defense teams. “This network breakdown is drastically interrupting preparations for the coming week’s hearing,” Ruiz wrote in a statement that he had delivered on paper to the Camp Justice press room because his internet service was down.

Army Col. James Pohl, the judge, granted an emergency motion to delay the start of six days of hearings until 9 a.m. Thursday. The hearings were supposed to start on Wednesday.

The source of the outage was a train derailment near Baltimore that killed two teenage girls, said Navy Capt. Robert Durand, spokesman for the detention center, which is responsible for the war court infrastructure. All internet links from Guantánamo Bay move through two satellite dishes on the base that beam signals to downlink locations in Maine and Maryland, Durand said. “The train derailment damaged the fiber-optic line in Maryland.”

The Navy plans to lay an undersea fiber-optic cable from the base to South Florida in coming years.

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