Military interrogators posing as “lawyers” are attempting to trick Guantanamo prisoners into providing them with information, The Catholic Worker (TCW) reports.
This incredible and illegal practice contributes “to the prisoners’ suspicions that the (real) lawyers are not to be trusted and could be aiding the government,” TCW says in its July issue.
This subterfuge is only one of the many treacherous tactics the government is employing to sabotage the efforts of lawyers to represent their clients.
As Newsday, the Long Island, N.Y. daily, reported: “The military has set up a system that delays legal correspondence for weeks and requires lawyers from around the country to write motions at a single secure facility in Virginia. Detainees have alleged that interrogators have tried to turn them against their lawyers.”
Lawyers have to wait for months for security clearances to visit their clients, and the military insists on seeing any legal papers they plan to show prisoners, and reserves the right to censor them or ban them entirely.
After meeting with their clients at Guantamo, Newsday reported, lawyers must turn their interview notes over to guards, who send them on to the Pentagon facility in Virginia that is the only place lawyers can go to write their motions. There, the military tries to edit out detainees’ claims of mistreatment from the public record.
Some military lawyers have been gagged from speaking to the media after they made allegation that guards are routinely beating Guantanamo prisoners. Australian Broadcasting reported defense lawyer Lt. Col. Colby Vokey and legal aide Sgt. Heather Cerveny, who represent a Gitmo prisoner, were ordered not to talk to reporters after they filed a formal complaint to the Pentagon about the beatings.
“I think all the other military defense lawyers have got to be feeling a little bit afraid,” Muneer Ahmed, an American University law professor, told AB. “There’s a chilling effect that this type of gag order has.” He added, “It further undermines what we know to be a broken system of justice.”
Worse than gagging, is imprisoning lawyers who speak out. The Pentagon literally hammered Lt. Commander Matthew Diaz who, in January, 2005, disclosed information about the Guantanamo prisoners, including their names. For this act of civility, Diaz was sentenced to six months in a military prison, TCW reported.
(At Guantanamo and U.S.-run prisons in the Middle East, the Pentagon and CIA reportedly keep “ghost” prisoners — captives whose names do not appear on any documents and whose presence is not reported to the Red Cross as required by international law.)
According to Newsday, guards and interrogators peruse prisoners’ private legal papers and warn them that prisoners who have lawyers will wait longer to get out. Tom Wilner, a lawyer for 12 Kuwaiti detainees, said an interrogator asked one of his clients, “Did you know your lawyers are Jews?”
The Justice Department and Pentagon have claimed inmate lawyers are creating “unrest” among the prisoners, provoking hunger strikes. That’s in case you mistakenly thought it is the harsh conditions at Gitmo that have driven so many prisoners to hunger strikes and suicide.
The U.S. government is “not only trying to deny counsel to the prisoners, but is actively trying to remove Guantanamo from any scrutiny, legal or otherwise” as well as “marginalizing the lawyers representing the prisoners,” TCW said.
Who needs attorneys anyway? In describing the conviction of Jose Padilla, an American citizen arrested on terrorism charges in 2002, “USA Today” noted August 17th he was held for three years “without charges, without seeing an attorney and without recourse to the courts.” Why should any citizen have the right to a lawyer if the Bush regime wills it otherwise?
The jury that convicted Padilla found him guilty of conduct that amounts to terrorism. Be warned, though, the system that convicted him amounts to totalitarianism.
SHERWOOD ROSS is a Miami-based writer who covers political and military topics. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org