WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- The leader of the military lawyers defending Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainees told his team not to comply with new policies on attorney-client communications.
Meanwhile, a coalition of human rights groups marked the 10th anniversary of the first detainees being held at Guantanamo by demonstrating at the White House and calling on President Obama to close the facility, Voice of America reported.
The facility now houses more than 170 prisoners, most of them suspected of terrorism. Nearly 780 detainees were brought to Guantanamo in the past decade.
While campaigning for president, Obama pledged to close the prison by 2010 and gave instructions to shutter the camp when he first took office in January 2009.
Rear Adm. David Woods, Guantanamo's new commander, last month issued instructions that require inspection of all mail and other documents defense lawyers send to prisoners facing military commission prosecutions. Woods said a team of lawyers and law enforcement personnel separate from prosecutors would inspect the materials.
However, Marine Col. Jeffrey Colwell, head of the uniformed military lawyers assigned to defend prisoners before the commissions, sent an e-mail to defense lawyers saying Woods' orders fail to adequately protect attorney-client privilege, Politico reported. He told the defense lawyers not to sign an acknowledgement of the new procedures or if they did an acknowledgement, withdraw it immediately.
"It is my opinion that these orders, and the following procedures established by them, do not allow you to adequately safeguard attorney-client privileged communications," Marine Col. Jeffrey Colwell, head of the uniformed military lawyers assigned to defend prisoners before the commissions, wrote in an e-mail released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union. "These orders compel you to unlawfully reveal information related to the representation of a client ... ."
Colwell "joins an honorable line of Guantanamo military lawyers who have opposed superiors' attempts -- ostensibly in the name of security -- to undermine longstanding rules necessary for a fair trial," the ACLU said in a release.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale said officials are studying Colwell's memo. While declining Politico's request for a copy of Woods' Dec. 27 order, Breasseale defended it.
"This order strikes the appropriate balance between the legitimate and important need for a detainee to be able to communicate with his counsel and prepare his defense to criminal charges, and the legitimate and important need for the command to ensure that both national security and detention facility security concerns are protected," he said.
European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom also called on Obama to keep his campaign promise to close the military prison, RIA Novosti reported.
On her Twitter page, Malmstrom said it was disgraceful "that prisoners are still held [without] trial President Obama, [it's] time to live up to your promise."