Detainees in Guantanamo (photo, from bbc.co.uk) have not been advised of any rights by interrogators, because the military prison is dedicated to intelligence gathering, not to law enforcement, said an FBI agent, testifying at the first Guantanamo war crimes trial.
On Tuesday, agent Ali Soufan, an al-Qaeda expert and star witness for the prosecution, said that the Guantanamo Bay Navy base is the only place in the world where he has not informed suspects of a right against self-incrimination.
“The way it was explained to us is Guantanamo Bay is an intelligence collection point”, he said.
In Salim Hamdan’s trial, the judge has been asked by defense lawyers to throw out all the Guantanamo interrogations. Though they argued that intelligence-gathering sessions should not be used against him in court, Judge Keith Allred, a Navy captain, ruled on Monday, that constitutional protections against self-incrimination do not apply to the man declared an “enemy combatant”.
Mr Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden, is charged with conspiracy and aiding terrorism. He has been cast by his lawyers as a low-level employee of the terrorist leader, without any role in al-Qaeda.
Mr Hamdan has been interrogated by other agents, from the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and said at pretrial hearings last week that they were instructed not to advise Guantanamo detainees of rights, but agent Ali Soufan is the first to provide a reason.
He said the Guantanamo policy was an exception to a practice he followed even in Salim Hamdan’s native Yemen, where he interviewed suspects in the investigation into the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole.
Agent Soufan is expected to testify on Wednesday, about two interrogations of Mr Hamdan, in 2002. As defense lawyers review hundreds of pages of newly released prison records for evidence of coercion, a judge ruling is pending on whether to admit a third interrogation he conducted in May 2003.
Other statements by Mr Hamdan (photo, from usatoday.com) in Afghanistan have been suppressed by the judge, because he made them under “highly coercive” conditions, such as isolation and beatings.
Mr Hamdan helped Osama bin Laden evade US retribution after the Sept. 11 attacks and ferried weapons for the Taliban in Afghanistan, have been the prosecutors arguments in opening on Tuesday.
“You will not see evidence from the government that the accused ever fired a shot” said prosecutor and Navy Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Stone. “But what you will see is testimony regarding the accused’s role in al-Qaeda, how he became a member of al-Qaeda and how he helped, facilitated and provided material support for that organization.”
When Afghan forces captured Mr Hamdan at a roadblock in November 2001, two surface-to-air missiles were in the car, have testified two US military officers.
If convicted, Mr Hamdan faces a maximum life sentence. His trial is expected to take three to four weeks, and the US says that it plans to prosecute about 80 prisoners at Guantanamo.