Today ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero, and National Security Project Staff Attorney Hina Shamsi, were in Guantánamo for the arraignment of the five so-called "high-value detainees," including that of the now-infamous Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who the CIA admitted to waterboarding. They blogged about the surreal day on HuffingtonPost.
Hina and Anthony witnessed the arraignment from behind a glass partition that separated the observers from the attorneys and detainees. Hina writes:
Over the course of the day, the sound...was cut off whenever the prisoners appeared to discuss the circumstances surrounding their treatment. It happened when Ramzi bin al-Shibh started to describe why he is now required to take psychotropic drugs (his lawyers only found out about this the night before). It happened again when Ammar al-Baluchi was asked by the judge whether he would accept his assigned counsel. Al-Baluchi, who was in secret detention from April 2003 to September 2006, responded, "If you gave me a lawyer the first day I was arrested, I would have accepted. Instead [SOUND CUT]." It was quite literally chilling every time that happened.
Anthony reports on the gallows humor that one detainee resorted to when speaking to the judge:
My favorite retort from one of the defendants was from al-Baluchi. When asked whether he understood that the government was offering him free legal assistance from the JAG lawyers, he responded with a simple yes. And then he added, "even though the government tortured me free of charge." Some of us had to laugh - to not cry.
The ACLU will be back at Guantánamo later this month; witnessing every moment as this system of injustice plods along.