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Policy: Technology

Al Qaeda suspects want laptops, video software to use in cells

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September 11 Terrorist Attacks,National Security,PennAve,Tim Mak,Guantanamo Bay,al Qaeda,Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,Technology

GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA -- Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is clearly not a Mac person.

The self-proclaimed mastermind of 9/11 is requesting that he be given a “Microsoft-enabled laptop computer” for use during his trial for war crimes, which is now underway. The ideal laptop would have features such as Adobe Acrobat, Microsoft Word, LexisNexis and Adobe Premiere video-editing software, the defense argued.

Lawyers for the al Qaeda suspects argue that the detainees need a computer “to assist counsel in their own defense” as they face a military commission in what has been called the “largest criminal investigation in the history of the United States.”

Defendants were allowed to have laptops with ordinary business software between 2008 to 2010, but those were seized by the U.S. government in January 2010.

Their lawyers assert that the laptops pose "no threat to guard-force safety, national security or any other legitimate governmental or private interests."

Trial judge Col. James Pohl set in motion the return of those laptops Friday when he ordered that the U.S. government turn them over to defense counsel once the computers have been checked for any classified information. It is not clear whether the detainees themselves will eventually regain possession of the laptops.

Currently, the five men accused of conspiracy for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have e-readers, technology that can let them read documents but can't create or edit content. The e-readers cost about $450 each.

Asked by the Washington Examiner why detainees would need the video-editing software Mohammed requested, his lawyer, Capt. Jason Wright, said that, hypothetically, video exhibits could be used in his client's defense.

“[Rapper] Mos Def most recently subjected himself to force-feeding, for instance. People have done waterboarding in the past. You can conceive of a situation where the defense decides this is part of the argument, to present a video of waterboarding,” Wright said.

Cmdr. Walter Ruiz, an attorney for co-defendant Mustafa al Hawsawi, said a video recreation of the detainees’ treatment while in U.S. custody is hypothetically possible. “Recreation of circumstances in any case is something that courts [have] allowed,” he said.

The computers given to the detainees can't record video or access the internet, the two attorneys said.

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