Gitmo officials deny breaching privilege

Feb. 13, 2013 at 9:46 AM
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GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- Officials at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, denied bugs were installed in the courtroom or elsewhere to pierce attorney-client privilege.

Besides denying microphones or other devices were surreptitiously installed so government intelligence officials could listen to confidential sessions between defense lawyers and five detainees in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United Sates, witnesses also testified Tuesday legal mail for the detainees is not routinely opened and reviewed, except during prison-wide checks for contraband, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The officials were called by the defendants' lawyers, who claim government officials have been spying on the defense. The military judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, hasn't ruled on whether the alleged eavesdropping compromised the military tribunal process.

Navy Capt. Thomas L. Welsh, the staff judge advocate at Guantanamo, said microphones and video cameras were hidden throughout the prison only to help the staff monitor security, the Times said.

"The person sitting in the room wouldn't know it was a microphone," Welsh said.

But he said "we don't listen in. ... Under my watch, definitely, we just don't listen in."

Welsh also testified that some of the prisoners' legal mail was seized in a prison-wide inspection, including letters for Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the alleged Sept. 11 mastermind.

"It was taken and returned," Welsh said.

Another witness, Maurice Elkins, director of courtroom technology, testified it would be nearly impossible for outside intelligence officials, known as Original Classification Authorities, to access and record private defense conversations, the Times said.

However, "I do not know what the OCA's capability is," Elkins said.

The hearings are being broadcast simultaneously at Fort Meade, Md.

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