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Al Qaeda magazine found at Guantanamo spurs searches

Defense lawyers oppose scrutiny of correspondence

FORT MEADE, Md. - A copy of a magazine published by an arm of Al Qaeda made its way to a terror suspect at the Guantanamo Bay prison, leading to an inspection of cells and a contentious new policy requiring special review teams to examine correspondence between prisoners and attorneys, US prosecutors said yesterday.

Navy Commander Andrea Lockhart told a military judge during a pretrial hearing that a copy of Inspire magazine got into a cell. She provided no details on who received the magazine or how. But she said the breach showed that prior rules at the base governing mail review were not adequate. Yemen’s Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula launched the online, English-language magazine in 2010. An early issue contained tips to would-be militants about how to kill US citizens.


Lockhart is part of the US team prosecuting the case against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi national charged with orchestrating the attack in 2000 on the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors. Nashiri, 47, is considered a senior Al Qaeda leader. He has been held at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba since 2006 after spending several years held by the CIA in a series of secret prisons.

How mail between Guantanamo prisoners and their attorneys should be handled consumed several hours of Nashiri’s pretrial session on Tuesday and yesterday. At issue is whether even a cursory examination of the legal correspondence violates attorney-client privilege.

The dispute reflects the untested nature of this latest attempt to resume the military tribunals at Guantanamo. The prosecution of Nashiri is already underway, and the United States is preparing to prosecute five other prisoners accused in the Sept. 11 attacks, yet defense lawyers and government prosecutors are still fighting to establish basic legal ground rules.

The military commission system has been revised by the Obama administration and Congress, which has refused to allow the administration to move prisoners from the American base in Cuba. The trial system is still sharply criticized by civil and human rights groups and defense lawyers who say the procedures favor the prosecution.


Nashiri’s defense team, and the lawyers for other Guantanamo prisoners, and the chief defense counsel for the military panels oppose the security review of legal mail, which was put in place last month by Navy Rear Admiral David Woods, the prison commander.

Army Colonel James Pohl, the judge in Nashiri’s case, ordered the detention center in November to stop Guantanamo guards from reading mail between the prisoner and his lawyers. The judge’s order came after Woods authorized an inspection of detainee cells in October that included reading mail between prisoners and their attorneys.

In late December, Woods issued a new directive requiring legal mail to undergo a security review to ensure prisoners were not receiving prohibited materials, such as top-secret information or objects that might be fashioned into weapons.