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Gitmo Translator's Past At CIA Throws Wrench In Sept. 11 Trial

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

On this program Monday, we told you about a remarkable encounter in the courtroom at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It involved the men charged with plotting and carrying out the 9/11 terrorist attacks. One of the men pointed at a court interpreter and said he had seen him before at a secret CIA prison where the defendant had been brutally interrogated. Today, government prosecutors addressed that claim. NPR's David Welna was there and has the report.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: Chief Prosecutor General Mark Martins told the war court this morning that the new interpreter once did work for the CIA. What's more, a senior official here said the interpreter had done so at a time when more than one of the 9/11 defendants might actually have encountered him, which raised the question - how had the interpreter ended up on one of the defense teams?

General Martins told the court he determined the interpreter had not been planted by quote, "any executive branch agency," an assertion the defense attorney Cheryl Bormann labeled an out-and-out falsehood. She said this latest incident had in her words so decimated any trust on this team we can't go forward.

Prosecutors called it the responsibility of the defense team to check out the background of anyone they hire. But defense lawyers say they did ask the interpreter whether he had ever worked for the CIA or been involved in interrogation sessions, and he said he had not. They have now asked the judge to compel that interpreter to answer questions they have. And they do not want him allowed to leave Guantanamo until they've had a chance to do so. David Welna, NPR News, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.

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