Details of Investigation Into Discovery of “Contraband” at Guantanamo to Remain Secret

Details of Investigation Into Discovery of Contraband at Guantanamo to Remain Secret

An edition of Inspire magazine, produced and published by an arm of al-Qaeda, was discovered at Guantanamo, prompting a strict, new legal mail review policy for detainees and their attorneys. Pentagon officials told Truthout that details of their probe into how the magazine made its way to the detention facility will not be made public. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The Pentagon won't release any details of an investigation initiated by the commander of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility revolving around the discovery of “contraband” at the prison, which included a magazine produced by an offshoot of al-Qaeda based in Yemen.

Late last year, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale told Truthout the prison facility's new commander, Rear Adm. David B. Woods, “directed that a security search be undertaken of detainee cells and materials in Camp 7,” which houses high-value prisoners.

Breasseale did not disclose what prompted the “security search” or whether any materials were seized from the camp. But during the military commission hearing last December for high-value detainee Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing, Navy Cmdr. Andrea Lockhart testified, “material … was getting [into Guantanamo], like Inspire magazine, that should not have been getting in.” Lockhart suggested lawyers defending Guantanamo detainees were responsible.

Inspire magazine was a slick English-language glossy edited by Samir Khan, a Pakistani US citizen who was killed in a drone strike in Yemen last September along with al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki, another US citizen who the US government placed on a targeted assassination list.

Lockhart is a member of the Pentagon's prosecution team. She was testifying about the reasons Woods had implemented a new order that directed a team of former government lawyers, translators and law enforcement officials under contract to the Pentagon to review privileged attorney-client communications. The policy applies to about 30 or so detainees charged with war crimes and other prisoners who will likely be prosecuted before military commissions.

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Neither Lockhart nor Woods, who was named commander of the prison last August, disclosed additional details about the discovery of the al-Qaeda magazine, such as whether it was found in a detainee's cell or who was responsible for bringing it onto the grounds of the prison.

Breasseale, who characterized the magazine as “contraband,” told Truthout Wednesday that Woods investigated the circumstances involving “contraband getting into or around” Guantanamo.

The details of Woods' probe, however, will remain secret, Breasseale said.

Woods “made clear he has no intention of releasing” the findings of the investigation, Breasseale said. “It gets to the heart of how we do business.”

Breasseale would not say when the investigation was launched or whether it included the discovery of Inspire magazine. Additionally, he did not respond to claims leveled by attorneys representing detainees in habeas corpus proceedings that interrogators were likely responsible for bringing incendiary material onto the prison grounds.

“We won't get into the contents of the investigation,” Breasseale said.

Last month, Brent Mickum, an attorney who represents high-value detainee Abu Zubaydah in habeas corpus proceedings, told Truthout, “the idea that an attorney would take into Guantanamo a periodical or a document that he or she knew to be proscribed is outrageous,”

“No attorney in the 600 or so I have interacted with over the years would ever do such a thing,” said Mickum, who holds a top-secret security clearance and is bound by a separate protective order involving legal mail. “No attorney would take the chance of jeopardizing the arduous steps they had to go through to obtain security clearance so prisoners could be represented by defense counsel and risk it by bringing in Inspire magazine. The only way such a magazine or document would get to a prisoner is through an interrogator who was trying to reward him for providing intelligence.”

But Maj. Michelle Coghill, a spokeswoman for Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO,) told Truthout Thursday that while she could not “discuss any details associated with specific contraband items…I can state that Joint Task Force personnel did not attempt to introduce specific contraband items into our detention facilities.”

Coghill also would not disclose further details about the Woods' investigation involving “contraband,” which she said he has “fully investigated.”

“In keeping with our security practices and the commander's commitment to provide for the security of the detainees as well as the guard force, JTF-GTMO will not discuss any details associated with specific contraband items,” Coghill said.

That position undercuts a promise the Pentagon made to be more transparent about the military commissions. Indeed, a tagline on the Department of Defense's new military commission web site unveiled last year boasts, “Fairness, Transparency, Justice.”

In hopes of gaining additional insight into the matter, Truthout filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Pentagon to obtain a wide range of documents pertaining to the events that led up to Woods' legal mail review policy as well as details about the investigation into the discovery of Inspire magazine and other “contraband.”

Meanwhile, military defense attorneys who have objected to Woods' order and have since stopped sending mail to their clients are still awaiting Chief Military Commissions Judge James Pohl to issue an opinion as to how the review of legal mail will be handled going forward.