September 11 defendants get "My Lai" massacre film By Jane Sutton REUTERS Sep 21, 2009

September 11 defendants get "My Lai" massacre film
Mon Sep 21, 2009 4:40pm EDT

By Jane Sutton

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba (Reuters) - Guantanamo prisoners accused of plotting the September 11 attacks were given a copy of a Hollywood movie about a U.S. massacre of Vietnamese civilians to help them prepare their defense in their mass murder trial, a prosecutor said on Monday.

Self-described 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and two co-defendants, who are acting as their own attorneys, asked for and were given copies of several movies, prosecutor Robert Swann told the Guantanamo war crimes court.

Among them were "Judgment: The Court Martial of Lt. William Calley," a 1975 Stanley Kramer film about a U.S. soldier held responsible for the murder of Vietnamese civilians in what came to be known as the My Lai massacre. Harrison Ford played the title character's superior officer in the movie.

"The camp provided them," Swann told the court, referring to the movie request. Also provided were law dictionaries and English-Arabic dictionaries, he said.

The movies appeared to be an attempt by the defendants to equate the killing of U.S. civilians with the killing of civilians by the U.S. military.

Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged al Qaeda co-conspirators are charged with 2,973 counts of murder and could be executed if convicted. Some of their requests for defense materials were discussed in a hearing that none of the defendants attended at the remote U.S. naval base in southeast Cuba.

President Barack Obama asked last week for a 60-day freeze on the proceedings, and said he would decide by November 16 whether to try Guantanamo prisoners in a revised version of the much-maligned military tribunals or move the cases to regular civilian courts.

A U.S. military judge granted the freeze about an hour before Monday's hearing started, but decided to hold the hearing anyway to hear some of the defendants' outstanding requests. The defendants opted not to attend.

The chief prosecutor for the Guantanamo tribunals, Navy Captain John Murphy, said federal prosecutors in four U.S. districts were already vying to try the accused September 11 plotters if the cases are moved into the civilian courts.


Those are Washington, D.C., the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, and the Eastern District of Virginia.

"They are working with us in a joint review of these cases," Murphy said. "The attorney general will decide whether these commissions will continue, yes or no."

The Obama administration has ordered the Guantanamo detention camp shut down by January 22 and is still debating what to do with the 226 detainees it holds. Murphy said he still hopes to try 65 of them in military tribunals.

Some of the detainees have already been indicted in U.S. federal courts, though Murphy would not say how many.

Obama has said he considers military tribunals to be an appropriate forum for terrorism trials of Guantanamo captives but would prefer to try them in federal courts if feasible.

Many congressional representatives, Republicans and Democrats alike, have tried to block efforts to move any Guantanamo prisoners to the United States, where they would enjoy U.S. constitutional rights.

The federal court districts in question are near the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and holding the accused plotters' trials near the sites of the hijacked plane attacks would draw from a pool of jurors close to the conflagration.

Moving the cases into the federal courts, where the rules are well established, would remove one major criticism of the ever-changing Guantanamo tribunals, which have undergone several revisions since U.S. President George W. Bush first authorized them shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Obama has asked Congress for additional changes to the 2006 law underpinning the current set of rules, including banning the use of evidence obtained through coercion and making it more difficult to use hearsay evidence.

The changes were approved in the Senate but are still pending in the House of Representatives.

"I don't think we can make any decisions until we see what the Congress passes," Murphy said.

If the tribunals survive, they could be held at other locations once Guantanamo is closed, Murphy said, adding that no location had been decided upon.

(Editing by Jim Loney and Todd Eastham)