National Security

Judge nixes visit to CIA black sites by 9/11 plotter's lawyers

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 would investigate whether some CIA interrogators committed crimes during interrogations at the 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.

The Pentagon seeks the death penalty for the two men, as well as three others, including alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed. All five are held in a segregated prison camp at Guantánamo for former CIA captives.

President Barack Obama has ordered a Cabinet-level task force to decide whether the men accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11 hijackings that killed nearly 3,000 in New York, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania should by tried by the military or in civilian court.

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