Transcript: David Nevin’s remarks on the arraignment of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Transcript of remarks by David Nevin, civilian learned defense counsel, on the arraignment of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed at Guantanamo Bay on charges related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks:

(*NOTE: Press conference was held on Sunday, May 6, 2012)

David Nevin, civilian learned defense counsel for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, speaking to reporters at Guantanamo Bay on May 6, 2012. SOURCE: Department of Defense / Sgt. 1st Class Robert Stephenson

“Good morning. David Nevin, learned counsel for Mr. Mohammed.

“Here to my left is Capt. Jason Wright of the United States Army, detailed military counsel…

“I’ve listened to these very eloquent statements from my co-counsels who I’m very proud to be here with.

“And I’ll be brief so I won’t take a lot of your time. I want to say that we are operating under a regime here in which we are forbidden from talking to our clients about certain important matters.

“Let’s side aside for a minute the fact that these – that my client, Mr. Mohammed, has been tortured. Just set aside for a minute the implications of the United States of America, the government of my country, torturing this man. We know that torture happens in lots of places. But I don’t think anybody in this room would ever thought that it would be done at the hands of the United States government.

“Now the government wants to kill Mr. Mohammed. They want to extinguish the last eyewitness to his torture so that he can never speak again about it.

“But in the meantime, there’s the risk that what happened to him might come out.

“Now, at the same time, we need – and we must have – the political advantages of a conviction and an execution. Right?

“So the Obama administration just decided that this case would be tried in federal court. But it turned out that there was too much political resistance.

“So we’re back now 4 years later and I see many of the same faces. We’re back now 4 years later at Guantanamo – a promise to the the contrary having been made. We’re here for political reasons.

“Now anybody who’s been around capital litigation – litigation in which the death penalty result – knows that persons accused of these kinds of crimes have a basic right to present evidence in mitigation.

“So if you’re Mr. Mohammed, the very first thing that needs to be explored and talked about is your torture. You have a right to do that.

“As his lawyer, Capt. Wright and Maj. Derek Poteet and I have an obligation to explore his torture.

“So how do we deal with that if we’re the government? We put in place rules that say that his lawyers can’t talk to him about his torture. His lawyers can’t talk to him about historical perspectives on jihad. We can’t discuss it with him.

“So when you’ve heard my colleagues say today that we are hamstrung, that before we ever start, the system is a rigged game to prevent us from doing our jobs, it goes to this most basic level: the thought police. You may meet with Mr. Mohammed. You may announce yourself as his learned counsel and as his detailed military counsel. You may stand up in a suit with a nice tie or an elegant and important military uniforms as you’ve seen many of my colleagues and as you see Gen. Martins. You may stand up in the accoutrements of a legal system. But just as Cmdr. [Walter] Ruiz said, we’ve got to look behind the curtain.

“And we have set this up so it’s destined to arrive at one point. You can call it point B. You can call it the result of a process. You can call it whatever you want to call it. But we all know what the destination station is here. This track runs only to one place, and everything is being done to prevent this from being fair.”


“David, just you said. Haven’t we already to some extent looked behind the curtain? I’m curious. I mean, we have the Red Cross report. We have the CIA Inspector General’s report. We have OOC memos. I mean, is there more to know what is – what you believe the government is doing here? We know he was waterboarded 183 times and so on and so on.”

David Nevin, civilian learned defense counsel for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: 

“Yeah, excellent question. But, of course, you know I can’t answer it.

“I mean, I am forbidden – and honestly, Peter Finn is an excellent reporter as many of you are. And so right out of the gate, he asks the most important question.

“But I’m not a reporter but I will respectfully suggest to you that there are some similarities between the role of lawyer and the role of reporter. Because you aren’t the kind of reporters who stand back at the press conference and say and toss up softball questions. You all – you ask difficult questions. You want to get to the truth of what’s going on. And so do I as a lawyer. So how do I do that? Well, I have discussions with my client. Start at the beginning, don’t I? No, I don’t. I’m not allowed to.

“So again as I say I’m – there’s an extend in which I’m limited in doing my job and it isn’t real.”


“Aside from the fact that it’s embarrassing for the government about the issue of your client’s treatment and waterboarding and whatever happened to him, what does any of this have to do with what he did before he was captured? I mean, to pare it down, what does his treatment and what was done to him afterwards have to do with what he did, what he committed or not commit beforehand?”

David Nevin, civilian learned defense counsel for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: 

“It has everything to do with it because we are talking now about a legal system that has been set up in the United States of America and these matters are critically important. And if you’ve read the Supreme Court cases and I gather the fact that you’re here covering this kind of a case implies that you have, you know what they say and you know that the United States Supreme Court has said again and again and again that in America these matters are critically important. These matters will be taken into account in courts in this country. We will not kill people with all the deliberation of the power of the state. We won’t do it unless we follow the rules, and the rules include a careful and scrutiny and review of exactly these kinds of issues. That’s why it’s important.”


“How do you, as a defense counsel, get around the issue that Gen. Martins has stated which is that we as the government prosecution side of the argument will not produce any evidence which has been tainted by torture? Can you, as it were, overwhelm that or overrule merely because of the treatment which your client has particularly received? Or are you having to confine your arguments to the General Martin’s position, which is that all of the evidence that will be produced in court will be untainted?”

David Nevin, civilian learned defense counsel for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: 

“Well, first of all, it’s not possible to untaint the evidence any more it’s possible to unring the bell. It’s not physically possible. We know this about human behavior. We know that it’s impossible to torture someone and then at some point up the road, some later place to say, ‘Well, we’re through with that. We’re not going to torture you anymore so anything you hear from there on is clean.’ And the teams were referred to as the ‘clean teams’, which is euphemistic to the – in the extreme.

“There’s no way to take it out of the issue except by telling the defense lawyers you can’t talk to your client about that. Well, that would take it out of the case, wouldn’t it?”


“You said earlier that the lawyers can’t talk to him about his tortures, the lawyers can’t talk to him about his political perspectives of jihad. Was this the same rule applied in the previous round when you had…?”

David Nevin, civilian learned defense counsel for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: 

“Oh no. No, no.”


“This is more extreme, right?”

David Nevin, civilian learned defense counsel for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed:

“Oh, absolutely.”


“Can you explain what happened?”

David Nevin, civilian learned defense counsel for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed: 

“Yeah. I’m sure you’ve…well, no I can’t explain what happened. I can only explain what the outcome was. On Dec. 27th of this year [sic], orders were issued that sharply reduced our ability to talk to these men. Now, this happens to be, in my case, 20 days after my security clearance was approved.

“In other words, even those I was appointed the learned counsel for Mr. Mohammed back in June, for reasons unknown to me, my security clearance, which had been in place for 7 years at that point, was treated as having lapsed or having gone away for some reason. So I wasn’t able to meet with Mr. Mohammed until December. But then within days of my being able to meet with him, the rules changed.

“And you’ve all read the Dec. 27th orders, I’m sure, and you know how they define contraband and you know that they say absolutely positively is the ‘detention of any detainee’. Can’t talk about it. Can’t discuss it. It’s not going to happen. Similarly with respect to historical perspectives on jihad.

“Why? Well, you’d have to ask Adm. [David B.] Woods that, because Adm. Woods is the one who issued those orders without any consultation with the defense and without any contemplation of how a meaningful defense is possible under their effect.

“Thank you all very much for your attention.”


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3 Comments on “Transcript: David Nevin’s remarks on the arraignment of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

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