Saturday, May 12, 2007


The heat, like everything else at Guantánamo, is oppressive. As I was waiting to see Mr. Al-Ghizzawi at camp six I was thinking about the men who were having “rec” time at that moment. The detainees at Camp 6 get two hours outside, but there is no shade in the exercise yard. Which is better, to come out during the night and never see the sun or come out during the day and stand in the blistering heat? I cannot even imagine having to make that choice. Of course the men at Camp 6 do not have a choice.

Adding to the heat index (or maybe it is to the oppression index) are the constant shenanigans by one captain McCarthy. Actually he may have another rank now, I know after the judge in one of my two cases gave an affidavit signed by McCarthy (under oath) “zero weight” (aka he is a liar) he got a promotion … (sound familiar?) McCarthy is in charge of the military lawyers at Guantánamo and from what I hear he considers himself an honest guy. As with the bushies, honesty takes on new meaning if this guy is an honest guy… Anyway, the latest shenanigan at the base involves the documents that we attorneys can bring into our meetings with our clients. A court order sets out the rules. We attorneys carefully abide by the rules set up by the court. The military on the other hand tries (sometimes successfully) to just ignore the court rules. The military philosophy was summarized very nicely by an escort who told me on my very first visit to the base “court orders don’t work here, we consider those only advisory.”

When I showed up for my first day of meetings with Mr. Al-Ghizzawi this week I had with me the usual set of documents. I always bring all of my recent correspondence in both English and Arabic. Sometimes I am lucky enough to have some of the court papers and judicial decisions translated into Arabic (thanks to the big law firms who take on these additional expenses) and I bring those along too. During the course of our two days of meetings I always review with Mr. Al-Ghizzawi the various letters and legal materials to make sure he understands what I was writing to him about.

In the morning of my first day of meetings everything was what passes for normal at Guantánamo. I went to see Mr. Al-Ghizzawi and we spent some time going over the letters and discussing other issues. Then comes the two hour break. They make us leave at 11:30 and if we are lucky we are back in by 1:30 (we use to leave at noon and come back at 1:00 but I guess they decided we needed a longer lunch!).

When I arrived in the afternoon to see Mr. Al-Ghizzawi I was told that I was no longer allowed to bring in any documents in Arabic unless “they” review the Arabic first. Problem is, “they” are not allowed to review letters that we attorneys send to our clients. Ooops new rule… who needs judges when the military can make up its own rules? Anyway I met with Mr. Al-Ghizzawi that afternoon and the next day without the benefit of my letters in Arabic… a little bit cumbersome but I did not want to give up my visit to fight this particular battle.

But I knew I did not want to have to go thru this with my other client Mr. Razak Ali on Thursday because I only had one day with him. I asked one of the escorts how I could get my letters in Arabic “approved” and he told me that I had to submit the materials to one of the escorts, who would then take the materials for approval and obtain a “red stamp” so that I could take them into the meeting. The red stamp part sounded kind of communistic for the military but as the disc jockey said on the local radio station that very morning… we are a “captive audience”. I wanted the approval so I was willing to jump through the hoop.

The next morning I gathered all of my legal materials for Mr. Razak Ali and brought them to one of the escorts. I included a letter with the materials explaining that I was giving all of my legal materials in English and Arabic that I planned to review with Mr. Razak Ali during my meeting the next day.
Surprise, surprise. That afternoon when I finished my meeting with Mr. Al-Ghizzawi I received a response to my request. My request was denied and my materials were returned to me. It seems letting “them” read my attorney client communications wasn’t enough so they added a few more hoops that I could not jump through over night.

I discussed this with some of the other attorneys that were at the base visiting their clients and I decided that I would have to protest the decision. The protest would not help me for my Thursday meeting but I was not the only attorney who would be affected by the rule changes. (As far as I know!)

When I got back to our quarters I alerted the gtmo attorneys back home of the “new rules” and one of them volunteered to file for emergency relief. He was heading down next week and he also wanted to bring Arabic legal materials. That evening I drafted a “protest” to the decision and I pointed out that the military was once again violating the court’s order. I assured them (McCarthy) that I would immediately, upon my return home, file a “Rule To Show Cause” asking the court to find the government (again) in contempt of court (the last time I filed one of these was when McCarthy decided to lie thru his teeth in an affidavit to the court). In addition I stated that I would seek a new trip down to the base on their dime so that I could complete my meetings (much to McCarthy’s chagrin I got that relief once already because of his conduct). I gave my protest letter to one of the escorts the next morning. At the same time counsel back on the mainland were preparing emergency papers and negotiating with government attorneys.

Something unusual happened that afternoon. McCarthy caved. He (through his minion) admitted that legal materials could be brought into meetings in any language. Unfortunately the fact that they were willing to follow the rules again, for a minute or so anyway, did not help me this trip. In all honesty, I don’t think they caved because they feared defending themselves in court against me again (they don’t care enough). Caving on this point more likely had to do with the fact that there is an important appellate argument this coming week and the government is under the gun to show that they are not impeding the work of the attorneys. This flare up would have been picked up by the media and had the potential to be an embarrassment.

You might have also read that the government caved on its desire to limit attorney visits to three. The government asked the court to limit our visits to a maximum of three because we attorneys are causing “unrest” at the base. They backed down late Friday and withdrew that request… but don’t think it is because they had a change of heart about our presence. They are still asking the court for the right to terminate all attorney visits without prior notification or approval from the court.

Under that proposal we might not even get the three visits.

I am afraid Hell will remain hot for quite some time.