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Listening Device Used to Eavesdrop at Guantanamo Made in California

Lawyers for suspects detained at Guantanamo have alleged their privileged communications have been monitored.

The audio monitoring unit discovered at Guantanamo by defense attorneys representing the 9/11 accused. The microphones, which resemble smoke detectors, were mounted to a ceiling in meeting rooms at at part of the prison complex known as Echo II.

Listening devices found at a camp at Guantanamo where defense attorneys meet with five high-value prisoners accused of planning the 9/11 attacks are manufactured by a Van Nuys, California, company that specializes in high-tech audio surveillance and monitoring equipment for the security industry.

Audio Monitoring Unit.The audio monitoring unit discovered at Guantanamo by defense attorneys representing the 9/11 accused. The microphones, which resemble smoke detectors, were mounted to a ceiling in meeting rooms at at part of the prison complex known as Echo II.Lawyers who defend high-value terror suspects detained at Guantanamo have for years alleged their privileged communications have been monitored when they meet with their clients. The attorney client meeting area is located at a part of the prison called Echo II, which is made up of about eight meeting huts and used to be maintained by the CIA. But the lawyers never had any proof to support their suspicions until recently.

Cheryl Bormann, a defense attorney for Walid Bin Attash, a Yemeni who is accused of training some of the 9/11 hijackers, revealed during a military commission hearing two weeks ago that what she thought was a smoke detector mounted to the ceiling in one of the meeting rooms at Echo II was actually a microphone, specifically, a Louroe “Verifact A” microphone that can pick up sounds from 15 feet away. It had been in the meeting room for at least a year, the prison’s lawyer testified.

During court proceedings on February 13 another defense attorney, David Nevin, who represents self-professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, identified the brand name and model of the audio surveillance unit he alleged were used to monitor attorney client conversations. But the media did not pick it up.

Louroe Electronics sells dozens of different audio monitoring kits, which are used by fast-food restaurants, casinos, police departments, the Department of Homeland Security, border patrol and the medical industry. The 33-year-old private company describes itself as a “world leader in audio monitoring technology.”

The audio monitoring unit discovered at Guantanamo is described by Louroe as a four-zone audio base station that includes four microphones that look like smoke detectors. It retails for about $500 and can be purchased from spy shops or security retailers online.

[UPDATE 3/10/2013: On Monday, March 10, the website maintained by the Office of Military Commissions posted a photograph of one of the listening devices. The photograph was filed as a defense motion by attorneys representing the 9/11 accused.]

“The reason this is important … my client raised the issue that we were being listened to,” Bormann said in court. “And I said to him, ‘Of course not,’ just like I say to every client I ever represented. ‘Of course not,’ because I keep attorney-client communications confidential. So when the guard walked in, I pointed to the smoke detector and I said, ‘Mr. Guard, is that a listening device?’ And he said, ‘Of course not. That’s a smoke detector.’ Guess what, Judge? It’s a listening device. And not only is it a listening device, but it is a listening device that, contrary to the allegations of [trial] counsel, has the ability to record.”

Cameron Javdani, the market relations manager for Louroe, told Truthout the audio monitoring unit in question does not come equipped with a recorder but he said it is designed to interface with a digital video recorder, VCR or another type of recording device to capture and play back audio, or it can simply be used to monitor live audio.

“It’s really dependent on what the end user wants to do with it,” Javdani said, adding that the base station can be located 1,000 feet away from the microphones to pick up audio. “Do you want to listen live or record?”

But Guantanamo prison officials testified that the audio monitoring unit has never been used to record or listen in on attorney-client conversations at Echo II, which are monitored by closed-circuit video cameras. Army Col. John Bogdan, the military commander at Guantanamo, testified that the FBI had used the monitoring unit to listen in on a plea agreement to war crimes charges between a detainee, defense attorneys and a government prosecutor, which the parties had consented to.

On Louroe’s website, the company said “one of the most frequent questions” it receives from customers pertains to “audio monitoring and the law.” Louroe said it includes a decal with each microphone it ships notifying customers that when the unit is being used as part of an audio monitoring system “the law requires the public be given notice of audio monitoring on the premises.”

Javdani noted the company does not have any government contracts and it’s likely the AP-4 unit used at Guantanamo was purchased from one of Louroe’s distributors.

“We’re usually, at a minimum, four-degrees removed from the end user,” Javdani said.

The eavesdropping issue has not been resolved. The defense attorneys are continuing to investigate in hopes of obtaining additional evidence to back up their claims of unauthorized surveillance.

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