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Court Probes Guantanamo Lawyers' Spying Claims

By William Vogeler, Esq. on May 17, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A federal appeals court wants to know if prosecutors intruded on attorney-client communications in a case out of Guantanamo Bay.

Defense attorneys withdrew from the case after they found a microphone in the client meeting room. Prosecutors said it was for interrogations and not used during attorney-client meetings.

In Spears v. United States of America, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia wants to know more. The panel has ordered the government to produce "any and all" relevant information, including "classified or unclassified" information.

Attack on the U.S.S. Cole

The defense lawyers represented Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is accused in an attack that killed 17 U.S. sailors. The defendant faces the death penalty in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole.

Al-Nashiri, a Saudi who was waterboarded by the CIA, was the alleged architect of the attack. It was a suicide bombing off Yemen on Oct. 12, 2000.

The appeals court has ordered the government to produce records, and set a hearing for arguments on May 24. In the meantime, the case has been stayed.

In their order, the judges emphasized that the temporary stay should "not be construed in any way" as a ruling on the merits of any other proceedings in the case. In a related matter, a federal judge is reviewing whether Marine Brig. Gen John Baker could legally be held in contempt and confined for letting the defense lawyers quit the case.

Held in Contempt

Air Force Col. Vance ordered Baker to reinstate the lawyers, then held him in contempt when he refused. Baker was sentenced to 21 days' confinement to his quarters.

Rosa Eliades and Mary Spears, who resigned in the case, have asked the appeals court to allow them to participate in a Pentagon review of their right to resign.

The DC Circuit, on its own motion, also told the parties to file briefs on that issue.

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