Army judge: 9/11 lawyers can't see CIA 'black sites'

WASHINGTON — A military judge says defense lawyers for an alleged Sept. 11 plotter held at Guantanamo don't need to inspect secret CIA overseas prisons to determine whether the accused al Qaeda terrorist is competent to stand trial.

Judge Stephen Henley, an Army colonel, ruled Monday that the so-called black sites have likely changed enough since 2006 that an inspection would be of no use to Ramzi Bin al Shibh's Pentagon-appointed defense lawyers.

President George W. Bush ordered Bin al Shibh and 13 other so-called high-value detainees transferred to the U.S. Navy base in Cuba from clandestine CIA custody in September 2006.

Henley issued the ruling the same day the Justice Department announced it was expanding a career prosecutor's exploration of whether some CIA agents committed crimes during interrogations at their secret prisons.

Henley also set Sept. 22 for pretrial hearings on the competency question of whether Bin al Shibh, 37, a Yemeni and alleged al Qaeda lieutenant, and Saudi Mustafa al Hawsawi, 41, an alleged 9/11 financier, are each competent to defend himself at any upcoming conspiracy trial.

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