, WASHINGTON, Jan 13 – The chief defense counsel for the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals has called on fellow defense lawyers to protest the base commander’s order to systematically inspect all communications between the detainees and their lawyers.
The new rules “do not allow you to adequately safeguard attorney-client privileged communications,” wrote Colonel Jeffrey Colwell in a memo to lawyers defending Guantanamo detainees.
“These orders compel you to unlawfully reveal information related to the representation of a client in violation of rules for professional conduct,” he said.
Under the rules, which went into effect December 27, 2011, a Defense Department team as well as intelligence agents and security forces are supposed to monitor lawyer-client communications and report to the base commander, Rear Admiral David Woods.
The goal is to prevent communications that contain information that “could be expected to result in immediate and substantial harm to the national security, imminent acts of violence, future events that threaten national security or present a threat to the operation of the detention facilities or to US government personnel,” Woods’ order said.
Colwell called on the defense lawyers to refuse to sign a document authorizing the command to monitor their communications with their clients.
“Once again, the government’s actions show exactly why these cases need to be in federal court where the rules are established, fair and effective,” said Zachary Katnelson, the American Civil Liberties Union’s national security project staff attorney.
In November 2011, a military judge hearing the case of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the bombing in 2000 of the USS Cole, barred authorities from reading communications between the Saudi detainee and his lawyers.
Colwell excused Nashiri’s lawyers from the protest.
However, prosecutors could ask the judge to apply the new rules to the Nashiri case in a pre-trial hearing that is scheduled to take place next week in Guantanamo.