Gitmo 'smoke detector' was a microphone, but official says lawyer-client talks weren't monitored

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Confirming what at least one defense lawyer had told a military judge overseeing the case of five defendants accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, a top legal advisor to the commander of the Guantanamo Bay military prison testified Tuesday that a smoke detector in a meeting room there actually was a secret microphone.

But, said U.S. Navy Capt. Thomas Welsh, it wasn’t used to monitor confidential conversations between prisoners and their lawyers or Red Cross officials. He said he learned about a year ago that the “smoke detector,” which was located in a meeting room used by high value terrorism detainees, provided officials with the ability to overhear conversations, after seeing a law enforcement agent monitoring a meeting between a defense lawyer, his client and prosecutors to discuss a possible plea bargain, according to the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times.

Some legal mail was seized during a 2011 security sweep, including mail for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is the lead defendant in the Sept. 2011 case, Welsh testified. “It was taken and returned. The commander had security concerns and he did it.”

A former military lawyer at the prison testified that some legal mail was opened in 2011 before it reached the prisoner but said it wasn’t read. Nonetheless, said Ramon Torres, who is now a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, he didn’t feel that this was right, ethically, and his feelings resulted in his being replaced at the prison job.

The Miami Herald also has a story.

Additional coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “A Gitmo mystery: Who cut the video feed for reporters?”

ABAJournal.com: “Is CIA listening to talk between lawyers and clients in Guantanamo death-penalty case?”

ABAJournal.com: “Defense lawyers say they think US may be eavesdropping on client talks in Gitmo terror cases”

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

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