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“We have to fill in the gaps, and we are paying the price for that,” said Mr. Abdo, a staff attorney. “We can’t create history with a stroke of a pen.”

Meanwhile, Gloria Clodfelter, mother of a victim of the Cole attack, 21-year-old Petty Officer 3rd Class Kenneth Clodfelter, wiped away tears during the hearing, and held hands with her husband, John.

The Clodfelters traveled from the U.S. to the courthouse in Guantanamo Bay with other family members and a dozen other observers.

Al-Nashiri’s trial could begin as early as November.