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Guantanamo / Detainees

After Pentagon computer security issues, defense lawyers ordered not to email or draft docs online

Posted Apr 11, 2013 3:00 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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After the disappearance of multiple documents and intrusions into the Pentagon computer system used by lawyers representing terrorism defendants, both military and civilian attorneys have been ordered not to use their computers for drafting confidential documents or email.

“I honestly don’t know how bad it is. All I know is that the information systems have been impacted, corrupted, lost,” said Air Force Col. Karen Mayberry, hours after making the order Wednesday. She is chief defense counsel for the military tribunals being held at the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Miami Herald reports.

Politico and Reuters also have stories.

Meanwhile, Gitmo hearings in terrorism cases have been postponed, so that defense lawyers can deal with issues created by the disappearance of documents from their computers.

Navy Cmdr. Walter Ruiz said "three to four weeks' worth of work is gone, vanished," Reuters reports. He represents defendant Mustafa al Hawsawi in a case brought over the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.

It isn't clear that the problems are related to any intentional effort to damage the defense or obtain confidential information about cases—Ruiz said that recent computer issues included the appearance of a folder of prosecution files in the system for defense counsel. (None of the prosecution files were opened by their opponents, according to defense lawyers.)

However, even if computer technicians inadvertently destroyed defense lawyers' work and breached confidentiality requirements, that is still a serious problem, particularly when both the prosecution and the defense share the same overall system, officials said.

"I'll be filing a handwritten motion very shortly to ask for an abatement of the proceedings," said another defense attorney, James Connell. He represents defendant Ali Abdul Aziz Ali in a case over the Sept. 11 attacks, Reuters reports.

Civil rights advocacy groups said the computer system issues demonstrate that the terrorism cases should be tried in federal court, on American soil, where constitutional rights are respected.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: "Military judge halts 9/11 case to explore eavesdropping issue, orders top Gitmo officials to testify"

ABAJournal.com: "Gitmo ‘smoke detector’ was a microphone, but official says lawyer-client talks weren’t monitored"

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