Guantanamo Judge Mutes Mics After Defense's Spying Claims

Detention facility officials to appear Tuesday to address concerns over hidden microphones.

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GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba—A secretive government agency's ability to monitor private court proceedings dominated the first day's court discussion at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in pre-trial hearings for five men accused of planning the Sept. 11 attack.

Defense attorneys argued they had definitive proof that the same mechanism that allowed a yet-unnamed third party to kill the live audio and video feed of hearings in late January can also listen in on confidential attorney-client conversations in the courtroom and in other facilities on the base, including the detention facilities.

[MORE: Sept. 11 Lawyers Fear Gov't Eavesdropping at Gitmo]

The court is scheduled to hear expert testimony on Tuesday about the capabilities of the live feed and who hears it. Judge Army Col. James Pohl issued a ruling that all microphones in the courtroom would be switched from the current push-to-mute setup to a push-to-talk configuration, on recommendation from chief prosecutor, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins.

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Cheryl Bormann, a Department of Defense civilian lawyer for Walid bin Attash, one of the accused, stated Monday that the Guantanamo detention facility has installed recording devices in the rooms designated for private conversations with her clients. She also said a military guard told her the devices, which she said look like smoke detectors, were not microphones.

Navy Capt. Thomas Welsh, staff judge advocate for the base's Joint Task Force Guantanamo, and Army Col. John Bogdan, commander of the detention center guard forces, are scheduled to testify first thing Tuesday morning.

Legal rules mandate all five men appear in the courtroom for the first day of the proceedings. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, accused of masterminding the Sept. 11 attack, bore his usual brightly dyed orange beard and a court-approved camouflage jacket. Two rows behind him sat Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a Yemeni, also in fatigues and traditional clothing.

[READ: Congress Goes Head to Head with Obama on Guantanamo]

Bin Attash, also a Yemeni, and Mustafa al-Hawsawi, a Saudi, wore white robes with black and white checked headdresses. Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, from Pakistan, wore the traditional flat-topped Pakol hat native to the tribal regions of Afghanistan.

Military officials tell reporters that eight family members of Sept. 11 victims are on the island for the proceedings. Seven people were in the observation gallery Monday morning, including a woman dressed in a flight attendant's uniform accompanying a young man, and a U.S. Army Special Forces sergeant first class.

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