MIAMI -- A federal prosecutor confirmed the existence Monday of the FBI investigation that has thrown the Sept. 11 war crimes tribunal at Guantanamo into disarray.
The FBI has opened a preliminary criminal investigation "that involves, at least in part, classified information," Assistant U.S. Attorney Fernando Campoamor Sanchez said in a court motion.
The prosecutor did not disclose the nature or focus of the investigation. But he said it does not concern the release of written communications from accused terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, contrary to what defense lawyers said last week during a pretrial hearing at the U.S. base in Cuba.
Campoamor said he would provide details of the investigation in a sealed filing to the military judge presiding over the trial of Mohammed and four other Guantanamo Bay prisoners in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.
James Harrington, a lawyer for defendant Ramzi Binalshibh, disclosed at the April 14 hearing that two FBI agents questioned a member of his defense team who works with classified evidence and asked about the activities of other defense team members in the case.
Harrington and other defense lawyers said the apparent investigation could create a potential conflict of interest for any attorneys who are the subject of an investigation. They asked the judge to put proceedings on hold and conduct an inquiry.
Harrington said Monday that the prosecutor's disclosure that there is some type of investigation means the potential for conflict remains. "The answer really doesn't dispel the notion that they are looking at the defense," he said.
The prosecutor said he was looking into the legal implications and asked the judge to delay by 30 days a decision on whether to abate proceedings.