Military Defense Attorneys Clash with Guantánamo Commander about Reading Mail

Thursday, January 19, 2012
Rear Admiral David B. Woods
Lawyers representing Guantánamo detainees are continuing to object to the base commander's new policy requiring all mail to prisoners, including confidential legal correspondence, be read by military contractors.
Rear Admiral David B. Woods, who has been in charge of Guantánamo since August, has insisted he has the authority to have all letters scanned for the sake of “safety, force protection and good order.” Those assigned the duty of reading the mail are contractors, including former government lawyers, law enforcement officials and linguists.
Defense attorneys strongly object to the new policy, citing the legal standard of attorney-client privilege as reason why the base should not be reading any correspondence between detainees and their lawyers.
The attorneys have accused Woods of trying to censor written communications between the accused terrorists and their legal representatives. They now have said they will stop writing to their clients unless the policy is changed.
Prior to Woods’ arrival, guards opened the mail in the presence of detainees to ensure there was no contraband in the envelopes, and then handed it to them without reading the contents.
Navy defense lawyer Cmdr. Walter Ruiz has filed a lawsuit accusing Wood and the prison of violating the 6th Amendment right to a fair trial.
The chief military commission judge, Army Col. James Pohl, who ruled in November that attorney-client mail was private, questioned Woods at a hearing on Tuesday.
Observers say the controversy could result in delays of the military tribunals that will decide if the detainees are guilty of their accused crimes.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky

New Head of Guantánamo Prison Orders Guards to Begin Reading Mail from Lawyers (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov) 


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