U.S. military officials are set to start hearings Friday for 14 top terrorist detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The detainees have been described as "high-value" terrorist suspects. They include Kahlid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Officials say the suspects will go before combatant status review panels of three military officers, who will decide whether the suspects are to be designated enemy combatants.

The hearings will take place at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo. Reporters will not be allowed to attend, and will have to rely on edited transcripts.

Civil rights groups and legal experts have condemned the hearings, saying that barring the news media sends a troubling signal to the world about the fairness of the process.

U.S. defense officials explain the secrecy of the hearings, saying the high-level suspects could reveal sensitive security information.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.