And Ruiz’s letter also complained that one of the defense’s mitigation experts had not yet been able to apply for a necessary security clearance—he hadn’t received the necessary weblink from DoD personnel. (MacDonald says he asked subordinates to look into that issue.) The lawyer summarizes other allegations in his letter and the witness acknowledges them, while reminding the lawyer that, in fact, the witness had granted a brief extension, from December 2011 to January 15, 2012. Then Ruiz turns to the October, 2011 baseline review: in another letter, the defense jointly called this to MacDonald’s attention, too, Ruiz says. MacDonald actually learned about this a bit earlier on, he responds, when bin Attash lawyer Cheryl Bormann wrote to him in advance of the defense’s letter—which also sought more time to conduct a mitigation inquiry. MacDonald indeed granted that second extension to boot, in deference to then freshly-cleared lawyers Nevin and Harrington. In order to give them time to meet with their client, he pushed the mitigation deadline back one more, to February 6.
Ruiz mentions al-Qatani, and that notorious case’s notorious non-referral by Susan Crawford, MacDonald’s predecessor. The witness is well aware of Crawford’s disposition. Ruiz: is torture a mitigating matter appropriate for consideration? It would be, MacDonald says, but the Convening Authority also emphasizes the role of Learned Counsel. My expectation is that cleared, learned counsel would perform needed investigation and provide me with mitigation material. How could I, without a translator, or a cleared expert, asks Ruiz. MacDonald again, even angrier than before: You rejected the 8-10 translators that were cleared already and provided to you, and then you selected a translator with no security clearance. I dispute your letter’s allegations, MacDonald says. Ruiz asks whether MacDonald believes counsel to be qualified to perform an ABA-complaint mitigation investigation, without cleared translators and experts; the witness again emphasizes counsel’s own role.
Security returns to the fore. In August 2011, MacDonald’s security department apparently could not provide SAP briefings (presumably those regarding “Special Access Programs,” or certain classified information). MacDonald acknowledges this. Ruiz: isn’t that because your office was subject to an investigation? The witness says he does not recall the reason, but does recall the SAP problem. The point: Ruiz had flagged a long-pending request for a clearance, submitted on behalf of one of Ruiz’s translators. MacDonald says he knew about the request, but that he paid additional funds in order for the Office of Personnel Management to conduct any necessary investigations within 35 days; and for the DIA to adjudicate the investigations. But there were caveats, MacDonald explains. Even the expedited process was dependent upon the issues developed in the investigations. Thus the slowdown.
Apropos, Ruiz refers to another request to extend the deadlines during the pre-referral phase. He sought a four month delay, on account of mail seizures during the baseline review. This document also set forth the severe burdens on the attorney-client relationship, which the status quo imposed. Among other things, Ruiz’s letter explained that al-Hawsawi couldn’t receive legal correspondence (including that between Ruiz and MacDonald). The witness responds at length, taking pains to emphasize how seriously he took counsels’ allegations against JTF regarding mail. In response to them, he directed his legal staff to get to the bottom of the issue. Subordinates afterwards returned and advised MacDonald that JTF now was in compliance with Judge Pohl’s written communications order in Al-Nashiri. That’s what we were waiting for all along, MacDonald underscores: before the cases got going, there was no judicial remedy for intrusions into attorney-client mail. Indeed, the witness says, his lawyers told him that the new policy was superior to Judge Pohl’s order, in that it established a privilege review team.
There’s some more now about mitigation. Another of Ruiz’s letters to MacDonald highlighted his grave concerns about the defense’s lack of resources during pre-referral: lack of cleared translators and experts, and the like. The witness again acknowledges some slowdowns in the processing of security applications, while noting as before that, yes, that’s what you said here or there in your letter. But he’s sharp in reminding Ruiz again: your people are cleared now, and you can always submit mitigating evidence to me, classified and unclassified, at any time.
Admiral, can a capital defense lawyer—who doesn’t have a translator that speaks the defendant’s language, who doesn’t have a mitigation expert, and who cannot communicate in writing with his client—present adequate mitigation evidence? That’s not my position, MacDonald again says. He rejects the premises about the lack of personnel (MacDonald provided them) and about communications (Judge Pohl’s order solved that problem). But, no, MacDonald doesn’t disagree that Ruiz lacked the services of a cleared translator and expert. And he doesn’t know about what was and was not excluded from submission to al-Hawsawi, Ruiz’s client, as legal mail.
Ruiz needs a spare document, which he’s left in his office. But that only raises the question: how long is this examination going to take? The binders at Ruiz’s side suggest a lengthy inquiry, maybe a day’s worth according to Ruiz. Thus the Convening Authority will reappear at a later time, perhaps in April. Thus we talk scheduling, and availability. Will he agree to be interviewed by the defense? Yes, he will, and has no objections to transcription. But he sure does object to interviews without a member of the government. Ruiz: I am such an officer. We all know what MacDonald has in mind, of course—no interviews without prosecutors present.
Housekeeping: we’re litigating written communication now, Judge Pohl says, via AE32 and AE18. So that leaves the defense without resolution on that point. Nevertheless, the court flags the issue immediately, apparently in light of bin Attash’s and Bormann’s earlier objections. What about some sort of interim relief? He has in mind the communications order now in force in another case, Al-Nashiri. In any event, we’ll talk about bins and mail, after the break.