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Military Names Air Force Judge for Guantánamo Bay 9/11 Trial. But There’s a Snag.

This article was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

WASHINGTON — Proceedings within the long-delayed trial at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, of 5 males accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, assaults hit a brand new roadblock on Friday when the army assigned an Air Force decide to preside within the case, and warfare court docket prosecutors declared the officer unqualified for the job.

The chief of the army commissions named Lt. Col. Matthew N. McCall because the sixth decide to deal with the demise penalty case since arraignment in 2012. He is a deputy chief circuit decide for the Air Force at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia however has served lower than two years as a army decide, prompting prosecutors to file a protest on Friday evening.

“While respectful of Lt. Col. McCall’s military career and achievements, the government does not believe he is qualified to preside over this case based on the information available,” prosecutors wrote in a two-page notice.

The guidelines for army commissions trials require a decide on the warfare court docket to have been a army decide in one of many companies for at the least two years. The prosecutors added that if Colonel McCall didn’t recuse himself from the case on his personal, they might search to take away him.

The growth solid additional doubt on when and how prosecutors will be able to restart pretrial proceedings, but alone the anticipated yearlong trial, within the case in opposition to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and 4 different prisoners at Guantánamo who’re accused of conspiring with the 19 hijackers who killed 2,976 folks in New York and in Pennsylvania and on the Pentagon.

The case has had various judges assigned to it, and this yr, one selected to retire, one other crammed in on an administrative foundation and a 3rd lasted two weeks earlier than recusing himself, citing private ties to New Yorkers who had been “directly affected” by the attaThe Senate confirmed Colonel McCall’s promotion to colonel on July 30, though his elevation in rank has but to happen in a Pentagon system that handles the promotions on a rolling foundation. Once it turns into official, he must serve within the rank for 3 years to be eligible for full retirement with a colonel’s advantages, circumstances that counsel he may stay on the bench lengthy sufficient to see the advanced conspiracy case to a trial.

Credit…U.S. Air Force

Colonel McCall additionally seems to don’t have any such conflicts. His official biography confirmed he was a regulation clerk in Hawaii on the time of the Sept. 11 assaults and earlier than that attended regulation college on the University of Hawaii.

He was admitted to the Hawaii bar on Nov. 1, 2001, has been deployed at least once to Iraq, for six months in 2006 and 2007 as a prosecutor, then centered on army protection work from 2008 to 2013. He was a protection lawyer in 2009 on the Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field within the Florida Panhandle and in addition served as a senior protection counsel in Charleston, S.C.

More just lately, the Sept. 11 trial has been hampered by modifications in personnel, logistical challenges and the coronavirus pandemic. Combined, they’ve stalled most litigation and compelled cancellation of each pretrial listening to within the case since February.

Now, coming building to fill a spot in out there housing on the base makes clear that the Pentagon is planning for a 2022 trial begin date.

The Defense Logistics Agency just lately ordered greater than 150 prefabricated, single-occupancy quarters from a Las Vegas firm for $11.6 million, with a supply date of January and February 2022. A village of 375-square-foot homes could be put in on an out of date airfield on the court docket compound, Camp Justice, for the attorneys and different skilled workers collaborating within the Sept. 11 trial.

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