Defense Attorneys Can Meet Their Internee Clients — But It’s Still All Their Fault

by Kevin Jon Heller

Following up on my previous post, the military commander in charge of Guantanamo Bay, Rear Admiral Harry Harris, has announced that he no longer supports limiting defense attorneys to three visits with their internee clients:

But in an interview with The Miami Herald and Saudi Press Agency on Wednesday evening, Rear Adm. Harry Harris, the commander, was supportive of the ongoing meetings between detainees and lawyers, known as habeas corpus counsel. He said they contributed to an image of transparency at the prison camps on this remote U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba.

“I have no issue with habeas visits,” he said. “The detainees ought to have an opportunity to visit with lawyers to discuss their cases.”

He called handling the visits “a lot of work” for his sailor-soldier guard force. “But it’s good work.”

Why the sudden change of heart? The article doesn’t say, but it does mention that the proposed rules have “roiled America’s legal establishment, drawing condemnation from newspaper editorials, the American Bar Association and other legal groups.” Regardless, it’s still clear who Admiral Harris blames for internees’ problems at Gitmo:

The filing in August was made in the shadow of a riot in Camp 4, a mass attempted suicide attempt on that same day, and the suicides of three detainees less than a month later.

The provisions sought in the new Protective Order were considered reasonable at the time. However, we have since been able to adopt procedures to better monitor the detainees and better facilitate attorney visits. Therefore, we would have no objection to the court ordering more than the number of visits that were suggested back in August.

Get that? The mass suicide attempt and successful suicides were caused by defense attorneys providing internees with information about the outside world, not by the brutal and dehumanizing conditions at Gitmo. So now that new rules have been enacted to keep the internees in line, unrestricted defense attorney visits are permissible again.

One Response

  1. KJH: Once again you’re right on the mark. In blaming the defense lawyers for Gitmo detainees’ unrest and suicide attempts, instead of the mental trauma caused their seemingly endless imprisonment under extremely harsh conditions by the U.S., Admiral Harris is dutifully following the example of habitual denial of responsibility for problems, established at the very highest levels of authority in Washington.

    I’d be surprised if the Admiral’s withdrawal of support for limiting defense attorney access to the detainees wasn’t cleared first with DOJ. Perhaps DOJ will now withdraw the request to limit the number of attorney-client visits. Assuming it does, will they also withdraw the proposal to deny the defense lawyers access to the secret evidence relied on by the government at the CSRTs? That’s still on the table as far as I know.

    In any case, according to the May 5, 2007 N.Y. Times “many of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are no longer cooperating with their lawyers….”

    A number of reasons are cited, but the main one seems to be that the detainees have simply and understandably (given the string of legal setbacks since Hamden) lost confidence in the lawyers’ ability to do anything for them. So the seeming victory against the proposed limits on attorney visits may turn out to be an empty one. This turn of events should be a wake-up call to Congress to get moving on repealing the MCA’s shameful court-stripping provisions.

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