Guantánamo trials plunged into deeper discord as confidence in court wanes

Revelations in pre-trial hearings further undermine US military court as defence lawyers paint legal proceedings as illegitimate

The battered credibility of the Guant namo trials has been further dented by revelations of hidden microphones, intelligence service interference with court proceedings and protests from lawyers who say the US military is preventing a proper defence of the alleged organisers of the 9/11 attacks.

The increasingly chaotic pre-trial hearings for the alleged mastermind of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four co-accused have slowed progress toward the full trial, to the point where it will now not start until at least 2014. But the latest developments also further undermine confidence in a military court whose legitimacy has long been questioned.

In recent days, the commander of the Guant namo prison, Colonel John Bogdan, was forced to admit on the witness stand that secret listening devices disguised as smoke detectors were installed in the cell where lawyers met their clients, and that he knew nothing about them.

The eavesdropping was revealed in court by one of the defence lawyers, Cheryl Bormann, who said she became suspicious about the supposed smoke detectors during a meeting with her client, Walid bin Atash, who is accused of training some of the 9/11 hijackers.

“I said, Mr Guard, is that a listening device, and he said, ‘Of course not’,” she said. “Well, guess what, judge? It’s a listening device”.

The prison’s lawyer, Captain Thomas Welsh, told the court he discovered the room was fitted with hidden microphones early last year and reported it to the then warden, Colonel Donnie Thomas, to seek assurances that meetings between the accused and their lawyers were not being spied on.

Bogdan said he was not informed when he took over. He told the court that the FBI was in control of the room until 2008 and that he has since discovered that the bugs were accidentally disconnected in October during renovations but then secretly reconnected by an unnamed intelligence service two months later, suggesting they were still in use.

Bogdan denied that the microphones were eavesdropping on lawyers. “We understood that any listening to an attorney-client meeting is prohibited,” he said.

But Daphne Eviatar, senior counsel at Human Rights First who was an observer at the recent pre-trial hearings, questioned whether Bogdan could give that assurance when he claimed not to know about the bugs until recently.

“The commander of the base himself didn’t even know that the cells where the attorneys are allowed to interview their clients are all bugged. They all have audio surveillance equipment. That equipment is controlled by the intelligence agencies not the commander of the base. It’s not clear who knows what about how it was being used,” she said.

Defence lawyers also discovered that the courtroom microphones have an unusual level of sensitivity, raising the prospect that privileged conversations with their clients were also covertly listened to during proceedings.

That followed a strange incident at a hearing last month when the audio feed from the courtroom to the public and reporters was suddenly cut when a defence lawyer made a reference to torture in an unclassified motion arguing that CIA “black sites” in Poland, Afghanistan and Romania, used to interrogate and torture abducted suspects, be preserved.

The judge, Colonel James Pohl, was caught unawares and demanded to know who had cut the feed. It transpired that an unnamed intelligence agency was monitoring proceedings from an unspecified location and decided to censor the hearing, a privilege Pohl said was reserved exclusively for him.

The Pentagon refused to publicly identify who had cut the feed, and whether they were even in the Guant namo complex.

“What happened in the courtroom was shocking,” said one of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s lawyers, Captain Jason Wright. “There was a wizard behind the curtain who had the power to completely cut off the audio feed to the proceedings, to censor what was being said in court. It would be foolish for us to not consider that capability in other areas where we interact with the accused.”

When defence lawyers examined microphones in the courtroom they found them to be unusually sensitive – so much so that they could pick up the conversations of guards chatting at the far reaches of the court.

Bormann described the situation as extraordinary.

“I’ve been practising law for 25 years and never have I been put in the position where I have to ask the following: ‘Am I being listened in as I talk to my client?’ My concern is I can’t have a communication with my client in this court without it going on the record,” she told the court.

Defence lawyers also accused the prison authorities of using cell searches to seize confidential legal documents. Attorneys for three of the accused – Mohammed, Bin Atash and Ramzi Binalshibh – said that the men returned to their cells on Tuesday to discover that the bins they use to store documents had been searched and confidential papers removed.

“We need to stop this now,” Bormann said. “This affects our ability to do our jobs.”

James Harrington, who represents Binalshibh, said: “It causes an enormous emotional problem which makes our job close to impossible.”

The prison lawyer, Lieutenant Commander George Massucco, confirmed that the documents had been removed and said they would be returned shortly. Massucco said the situation was created by a change in the guards, with the navy taking over from the army, resulting in a fresh inspection which led the new guards to remove documents they found “disturbing”.

The guards also seized books including a copy of the 9/11 Commission report and a memoir by a former FBI agent, Black Banners, which is critical of torture such as waterboarding, which was used on some of the alleged terrorists.

Bin Atash made an unusual outburst in court over the confiscation from his cell of a picture of the Grand Mosque at Mecca.

“In the name of God there is an important thing for you …” he shouted. The judge cut him off and threatened to remove Bin Atash from the court.

A former military lawyer at the camp testified that he believes he was removed from his post at Guant namo after raising ethical questions about reading protected communications between the defendants and their lawyers.

The past week’s revelations have fed into attempts by defence lawyers to claim they are being prevented from giving a proper defence of their clients and to paint the entire legal proceedings as illegitimate.

Eviatar said some defence lawyers have begun to question whether the constraints on fulfilling their duties – from what they regard as the illegal snooping to constraints on meetings with their clients, curbs on the evidence they can use and the treatment of the accused – means they cannot fulfil their duties.

“What they’re saying is they’re not able to meet those basic legal and ethical obligations, and that undermines the legitimacy of the entire trial. They’re not able to form a relationship with their clients because the client no longer trusts them because they’re eavesdropping on them and reading their communications,” she said.

“It’s a legitimate concern. It really disrupts the ability for the attorney to be able to develop any kind of relationship with the client. If they don’t trust their own lawyer it’s very difficult for them to participate in their own defence. That’s important, especially in a death penalty case.”

The former vice admiral in charge of the 9/11 trials, Bruce MacDonald, was forced onto the stand over the dispute.

He got into a spat with one of the defence lawyers who was his junior in rank, Commander Walter Ruiz. Ruiz challenged MacDonald’s independence and commitment to a just trial, and suggested he had rushed to pursue the death penalty.

MacDonald said that he and other lawyers in the US navy had been “disgusted” by the military tribunals set up by the Bush administration and they pressed hard to make the system more just, including a bar on evidence obtained through torture.

Defence lawyers say that the use of waterboarding and other abuses should require that the state does not pursue the death penalty.

Eviatar said the military tribunal’s track record is already damaged by the use of torture and CIA black sites in interrogations, and the original Bush plans for the conduct of the trials which were struck down by the supreme court as unconstitutional.

“I think what’s happening really seriously undermines the credibility of the process,” she said. “These are new courts to begin with. The first version of these courts was struck down by the US supreme court so you’re already starting with a lot of scepticism. And this current version hasn’t been tested in the US supreme court yet. But there’s so many problems every step of the way that it’s going to be very hard for anyone to look back and say this was a fair trial.”

Liverpool v Swansea City – as it happened | Daniel Harris

Swansea warmed up for the League Cup final by appearing to invest as little effort as possible, while Liverpool were excellent

Daniel Harris

Just Mobile Encore Stand – Gear Review

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Cruising down the highway in the passenger seat, I was all set to break out my laptop on this very long (very boring) road trip and get to a bit of work. That is, until I opened the box of the Encore stand our friends at Just Mobile sent over for us to try out. First impression: whoa. Flipping back the lid of the sleek black box, the first thing you may notice is how simple and elegant the design of this stand is. It is a round base, and hinged arm- no fuss, no superfluous gadgetry- just elegant, well designed, and beautiful. And it now sits on top of the laptop I was going to use, propping up my iPad as I type away

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The base, a perfect circle, is solid and stable. Through the bumps and occasional deft maneuvers being made by the aggressive driver of a friend I’m sitting next to, this stand hasn’t budged a millimeter. Weighted in solid aluminum with an oxidized matte finish, the color actually matches spot on with my Macbook, a subtle but clever design decision. The bottom of the base and the edge around the top where the stand comes into contact with the iPad are covered in heavy duty rubber, so there is no chance of this scratching your tablet.

The arm, adjustable for comfortable viewing or typing, is completely covered in the same heavy duty black rubber, also protecting your iPad from scratches. It is fitted quite tightly and takes a good tug to put it exactly in place, but I appreciate the sturdiness and quality of the hinge.

The simplicity of the design here actually lends this stand to be about as flexible as it could be for holding your tablet in a variety of positions, both in portrait and landscape orientation. I have also tested this with a variety of cases, and this seems to have no problem supporting any.

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What I like: This case is well designed, elegant, durable, and stable. Folded up, it would fit neatly into a small pocket in my purse or backpack. The materials- solid aluminum and heavy duty rubber are also durable and we are pleased there is no plastic in this stand. Even with these materials the stand overall is quite lightweight.

What I didn’t like: This stand is not a docking station, and while charging you’re iPad while using it doesn’t interfere with the performance at all, that could have potentially been a nice feature.

To buy or not to buy: This is probably the best stand I’ve tried to date. If your in the market, it’s portable, made of high quality materials, and sturdy. You can’t ask for much more.

  • Accessory Name: Encore
  • Category: iPad Stand
  • Company: Just Mobile
  • Colors: Aluminum and Black
  • Price: $59.99
  • Score:

PadGadget Daily App Deal – 12 iPad Apps on Sale

For today’s Daily Deal we’ve found 12 great apps to add to your iPad collection. We have 7 productivity / entertainment apps and 5 game apps in today’s bundle.

We used our PadGadget Apps Tracker to find these great deals and we’ll continue to look for the best app deals as they pop-up. Some of these apps are up to 80% off, a couple are even free, so be sure to check them out because they are on sale for a limited time.

Game Apps

  1. Apocalypse Max: Better Dead Than Undead () – This very popular side-scrolling zombie shooter game has a 5 star App Store rating and is now available for Free instead of $2.99. This app weighs in at 293 MB so please be sure that you have enough space on your iPad before downloading.
  2. Ascendancy () – This fun game has a 4.5 star App Store rating and is now available for $0.99. That’s a savings of 80% off the apps’ normal price of $4.99.
  3. Pew Pew Land II HD – This entertaining iPad game has a 4.5 star App Store rating and is now available for Free instead of $2.99.
  4. Royal Envoy 2 HD (Premium) – This sequel to Royal Envoy has a 4.5 star App Store rating and is now on sale for $1.99 instead of $3.99.
  5. Venice Mystery (Full) – This fun game has a 4.5 star App Store rating and is now on sale for $0.99 instead of $2.99.

Productivity and Entertainment Apps

  1. Bubble Guppies: Animal School Day HD – This popular education app has a 4 star App Store rating and is now on sale for $2.99 instead of $4.99. This app weighs in at 705 MB so please be sure that you have enough space on your iPad before downloading.
  2. Clinometer – level and slope finder () – This iPad level has a 4 star App Store rating and is now on sale for $0.99 instead of $1.99.
  3. Codea – This iPad programming app has a 4.5 star App Store rating and is now on sale for $4.99 instead of $9.99.
  4. Nick Jr Draw & Play HD – This fun Nick app has a 4 star App Store rating and is now on sale for $2.99 instead of $4.99. This app weighs in at 642 MB so please be sure that you have enough space on your iPad before downloading.
  5. PDFpen for iPad – This iPad PDF app has a 4 star App Store rating and is now on sale for $9.99 instead of $14.99.
  6. Team Umizoomi Math: Zoom into Numbers HD – This educational math app is now on sale for $2.99 instead of $4.99.
  7. Weather+ () – This insanely popular weather app has a 4 star App Store rating and is now on sale for $0.99 instead of $1.99. This app weighs in at 337 MB so please be sure that you have enough space on your iPad before downloading.

Also be sure to check out yesterday’s Daily Deal to find more great savings.

= Indicates app is Universal and will run on an iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch.

We use our PadGadget Apps Tracker to constantly monitor the App Store to find the biggest price changes on iPad apps. Our editorial team goes through the data, picks the best deals on the most interesting apps and then brings them to you on a regular basis. All app prices are checked at the time of posting but prices are subject to change without notice. When developers put their apps on sale it’s usually for a very limited time, often 24 hours or less, so be sure to check pricing on iTunes before making a purchase.

European startups need to be valued higher – in more ways than one

europe 520x245 European startups need to be valued higher - in more ways than one

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Kevin Cornils, CEO of UK-based, venture-backed European eyewear retailer Glasses Direct.

Why should a startup Silicon Valley business be valued at up to five times higher in the US, than its Silicon Roundabout equivalent in the UK?

As a Californian-born entrepreneur, who has chosen to spend the last decade working in London, I am struck by the huge difference in the way that the US and Europe values startups and early stage businesses.

Finding the next Facebook is as much the goal here as it is in California. There, it really seems a possibility. Yet here we focus too much on why it won’t happen.

To my mind, the history of tech success stories in the US – Microsoft, Google, eBay, Twitter – means it is second nature for a US investor to think that they might have the next Facebook on their hands.

In Europe, companies like Skype, developed in Tallinn, and Spotify, in Sweden, have been global groundbreaking ventures, but there has never been the same hype around them or their founding teams as there has been around US startups like Twitter, Google and Amazon.

In Europe, we talk about the lack of an “ecosystem” for start-ups. In the US, the founders and entrepreneurs that started and drove these businesses, create the ecosystem through their inspiration.

This huge difference in attitude feeds directly through to valuations of startups.

Last spring, JustEat.com – the takeaway food website – was very pleased to receive its third round of venture capital funding funding of $64 million ( 39.8 million). Meanwhile, Yelp, a US restaurant review site that is a smaller business than JustEat, was making its stockmarket debut with a valuation of $1.47 billion.

In the retail sector of my business, Glasses Direct, we have also seen a disconnect from our leading US rival, Warby Parker, which recently received a valuation rumoured to be 8 to 10 times revenue. European businesses are more likely to attract funding closer to two-to-three times revenue.

It is a pattern that continues as companies grow. Listed European technology firms valued at more than $100 million are on average 32 percent cheaper than their North American peers. Bloomberg says they trade at an average ratio of 15 times earnings compared with 22 times earnings in the US and Canada.

Behind this, there lies a lack of financial and market support for start-ups in Europe.

In every year from 1995 to 2010, venture capital investment was higher in the US than it was in Europe – reaching four to five times the European level in many years (BVCA report [PDF], page 29).

In 2010, the last year for which figures are available, investment reached $23,263m across the Atlantic, compared with $4,978 million in Europe. Meanwhile, a report in 2009 by the British Venture Capital Association, showed that Silicon Valley funds around 300 mid to late growth companies each year at levels of 5 to 20 million, whereas the UK only funds about 60 (CBI report [PDF], page 28).

While the US VC sector is worth more than $30 billion a year (CBI report [PDF], page 29), the UK’s is far smaller.

Even the press act differently. In the US, a whole media sector exists to chart startups and is eager to tell success stories, whereas in Europe, journalists are keener to write about the difficulties startups have.

Progress has been made with the LSE and Downing Street initiative to make it easier for high growth companies to float. However, the fact that there is no Internet category for institutional investors to cover might continue to make this a challenge.

Here in the UK where we lead the G20 in terms of the internet’s role in our economy, isn’t it time that we learn to celebrate startups?

This is not just a plea for US-style valuations. It’s a humble request that startup businesses are valued in all senses of the word – and praised as much for what they have achieved so far, as for the future businesses they might become.

Image credit: Thinkstock

8 things your VC won’t tell you

8 520x245 8 things your VC wont tell you

Venture capitalists, especially those investing at the early stage, could be described as “relationship capitalists”. You’ll often hear how investors approach their commitments like a marriage, and that they think long and hard about with whom they want to go to bed. Avoid picturing that second part.

But the VC mystique can be inexplicable at times. Why do they send such curt emails? What the #%$! do they mean by “traction”? Are they even paying attention?!

Here are some things they might be thinking (but probably won’t flat-out say) during the courtship process, and how you can prepare, take ownership, and rock the pitch.

1. “I can’t remember what you do.”

VCs have countless meetings with entrepreneurs, and review even more pitches remotely. Chances are, you’ve scheduled a meeting weeks ahead of time due to a jammed calendar and travel itineraries. Or, you got turned down before, months or years ago, and are having a follow-up discussion.

Don’t take it personally if you’re met with a semi-blank stare. Start the meeting with a brief sentence or two that subtly describes your business and background. It’ll help prevent confusion (and potentially glazed eyes) deeper into the conversation.

2. “I don’t get your product.”

Speak simply, and get to the point. VCs understand that you’re 1,000% excited to be tackling the problems you’re tackling, but stick with one storyline at a time. Reading between the lines is a little too much work. Treat them as if they were a valuable customer. At the very least, it’s great practice for when that is the case.

Moreover, ensure that the investor does, in fact, understand your business, rather than just thinking so. One approach might be to say, “Now that I’ve told you what we do, I’d be very interested in how you describe the business from your perspective.” You’ll likely gain some enlightening feedback on your pitch.

Of course, the above implies that you know your business and market inside and out. The less you understand, the less value you’re likely to provide to your startup, and the less an investor will want to get involved.

3. “I know I’ve heard of others doing this…”

Have a clear handle on your competitive set and address them outright. Entrepreneurs should be fluent in the goings-on of their industry, and have a firm understanding of how their business differentiates itself. Unless the VC is very familiar with your space, they may withdraw temporarily as they rack for comps.

This is also a common test. Either way, be prepared to knock it out of the park.

4. “Can I add value to this business?”

Illustrate how your VC can provide value to your enterprise. Every VC wants to feel like s/he can offer more help than signing a check; your investors want and should be a part of your braintrust. Demonstrate that you know the firm and profile, and can explain how this will take your company to the next level (which, with any luck, will reap benefits for them too).

5. “You’re not solving a real problem.”

Answer this: How is your business changing the world? Put in other words: Why would anybody (or more importantly, many people) care? Hopefully, it’s not another rendition of the ice cream glove.

“Real” is often a measurement around market size; how many customers are out there, and how much are they dying to pay you?

6. “I don’t believe you’re right to lead this business.”

Now that you’ve convinced your VC that this is a market going after, make it undeniable that you’re the dream team to go after it. Explain why you have the perfect blend of skills, knowhow, network, and passion that no one else can flaunt. If your investor had to make only one bet on your market (as investors frequently do), why should it be on you?

7. “I’m not sure if I can afford this.”

VCs allocate their funds towards new investments and follow-on rounds. Your terms must make sense in regards to their financing ability and equity interests. “Affordability” also refers to time; investors may simply pass because they’re stretched thin with their existing portfolio companies.

Do your homework. Potentially save yourself some time by looking into the VC’s investment stage, investment size, and board commitments.

8. “It doesn’t feel right.”

You may very well be something like a 90% Match, 10% Friend, 0% Enemy for your VC. You’ve checked every box, made them laugh on numerous occasions, and shown them a good time or two. But sometimes, the chemistry falls short of science. Don’t sweat it and move on. There are many opportunities out there.

(Special thanks to Brad Gillespie (IA Ventures), Steve Schlafman (Lerer Ventures), and Michael Klein (Canaan Partners) for their thoughts and contributions to this post).

Image credit: Comstock / Thinkstock

Apple customers sitting on $9 billion in old iPhones

“Why is an old iPhone still worth hundreds of dollars? New research suggests a surprising explanation: hoarding,” Quentin Fottrell reports for MarketWatch.

“More than half of American consumers say they have two or more unused cell phones in their household, according to a new survey released Friday. The trade-in value of all those old gadgets: $34 billion, according to resale site SellCell.com – which has a vested interest in tapping into this possible gold mine,” Fottrell reports. “Old iPhones account for roughly a quarter of that sum. Apple has been able to release a new model every year since 2007 – 85 million phones and $50 billion in revenue – partly because it’s easy and inexpensive for customer to sell their old ones for new models. But clearly large numbers of users never part with their old devices.”

Fottrell reports, “Almost one-in-five of those surveyed say they are just “too lazy” to sell their old devices, the survey found. “

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: You don’t want to know how many older model iPhones have lying around here. We really ought to get on that…

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Ellis D.” for the heads up.]