Monday’s hearing in the Guantánamo Military Commission prosecution of the alleged 9/11 plotters was expected to address the now-familiar allegations of improper command influence by Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann, who has already been excluded from three other commission trials for politicizing his legal advice in favor of the prosecution. But if there’s one thing we’ve learned to expect about these military commissions, it’s that nothing goes according to plan. In that regard, Monday didn’t disappoint.
At 9 a.m., when proceedings were scheduled to begin, one seat was noticeably empty: Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s. The other four so-called "High-Value Detainees" were there, as were their military and civilian lawyers and advisors, the prosecutors, the many guards, and the unnamed and never-identified civilian contractors who control security. But bin al-Shibh was nowhere in sight.
For the next 90 minutes, the defendants spoke to their "co-counsel" (three of the detainees are representing themselves) and to each other. Then a recess was announced. There was no explanation.