FBI ends investigation of 9/11 defense team member

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Associated Press

Posted on May 22, 2014 at 11:05 AM

Updated Thursday, May 22 at 11:05 AM

MIAMI (AP) — An FBI investigation into a potential security breach that halted proceedings at the Guantanamo war crimes tribunal in April has ended without charges, the Justice Department said Thursday.

The FBI was investigating whether a member of the defense team for Ramzi Binalshibh, one of five prisoners at the U.S. base in Cuba charged in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack, had aided the defendant in making "unauthorized communications" with someone abroad, Justice Department spokesman Brian Fallon said.

In April, the lawyer for Binalshibh disclosed that the FBI had questioned the defense security officer assigned to him, a non-lawyer who assists with the management of classified evidence. The disclosure brought pretrial hearings in the case to a halt because it created a potential conflict of interest for defense lawyers charged with defending both their clients and potentially themselves as a result of the FBI investigation.

Fallon said no lawyers in the case are under investigation and therefore there is no conflict that should prevent the resumption of proceedings in the case. A federal prosecutor informed the military judge of the conclusion on Wednesday.

But Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Bogucki, a military lawyer for Binalshibh, said all five defendants in the case and all their attorneys must still determine whether a potential conflict exists.

"We are going to have to carefully review all the facts ourselves and Ramzi (Binalshibh) is going to have to look at the facts," Bogucki said. "We are not going to be able to accept the government's statement at face value."

Bogucki, who was in Jordan to interview witnesses and experts to prepare for the long-delayed trial, said he did not know what prompted the FBI investigation of the security officer, who has left the case, or what communications came under scrutiny. "We have dealings with an awful lot of people in an awful lot of places around the world."

A hearing is scheduled for June to consider the appointment of independent counsel for attorneys involved in the case who face a potential conflict because of the investigation.

Binalshibh and his four co-defendants face charges that include terrorism and nearly 3,000 counts of murder in violation of the law of war for their alleged roles planning and aiding the Sept. 11 attack. They could get the death penalty if convicted. A trial date has not been set.

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