US officer cites 'pressure' over 9/11 suspects' mail

A US military officer said Wednesday that he felt under pressure when tasked to screen the mail of five men held at Guantanamo Bay on suspicion of plotting the September 11 attacks.

On the third day of a preliminary hearing at the US naval base located at the southeastern tip of Cuba, lieutenant Alexander Homme testified via video link about how communications of so-called "high-level" detainees were handled.

Defense lawyers have already said that client-attorney privilege has been breached in the case, citing the government's use of microphones capable of eavesdropping on legal conversations held with the 9/11 suspects.

The court heard Wednesday that Homme wrote an article in August 2012, which said working at Guantanamo involved "immense pressure" from lawyers and military commanders, as well as political considerations.

Cheryl Bormann, an attorney for Yemeni suspect Walid bin Attash, quizzed Homme about access to legal documents that support her client's case which she did not have access to, and instructions relating to control of correspondence.

"There was pressure," said Homme, who no longer works at the prison facility and is a reservist in Florida. "I never read the content of anything that I screened. I recall rejecting a fair amount of documents.

"Anything that was not produced by the attorney would be put in the pile to be rejected."

When pressed by Bormann, Homme conceded that pressure could come from the US State Department, the FBI and other government agencies.

Homme said he did not "recall dealing directly with representatives of intelligence agencies," other than J2, the intelligence service of Joint Force Guantanamo.

The hearing -- which was boycotted by all five 9/11 suspects on Wednesday -- is being viewed by reporters via a live feed shown at Fort Meade military base in Maryland, near the US capital.

The suspected plotters of the attacks against New York's Twin Towers and the Pentagon, as well as the crash of a passenger jet in Pennsylvania more than 11 years ago, face the death penalty if convicted.