IN JANUARY 2013, during the military trial of five men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks, a defense lawyer was discussing a motion relating to the CIA’s black-site program, when a mysterious entity cut the audio feed to the gallery. A red light began to glow and spin. Someone had triggered the courtroom’s censorship system.
The system was believed to be under the control of the judge, Col. James Pohl. In this case, it wasn’t.
“The 40-second delay was initiated, not by me,” Pohl said. He was referring to the delayed audio feed, which normally broadcasts to the press and other observers seated in the gallery. The gallery is cut off from the courtroom by three layers of soundproof Plexiglas. “I’m curious as to why … if some external body is turning the commission off under their own view of what things ought to be, with no reasonable explanation, then we are going to have a little meeting about who turns that light on or off.”
Later, Pohl said the censorship was the work of an “OCA,” short for “Original Classification Authority.” In the future, he said, no external body would be permitted to unilaterally censor what was happening in his courtroom.
Many have speculated that Pohl’s “OCA” is in fact the CIA. That speculation is now confirmed with the release of three new documents by The Intercept. The documents show the evolution of secret rules governing what is and is not allowed to be discussed before the military court at Guantánamo.
All three of the declassified documents are marked “Secret,” and were distributed to defense attorneys and Pentagon-employed courtroom-security officers. The documents clearly identify CIA as the OCA for torture-related information at the Guantánamo military commission proceedings.