GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba—A reclusive facility tasked with housing alleged Sept. 11 conspirators had the ability to record private attorney-client meetings, a court official said Tuesday.
Speaking during pre-trial hearings for five men accused of planning the 2001 attack, Navy Capt. Thomas J. Welsh, the staff judge advocate for Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay, said he had witnessed a meeting in January 2012 held in the complex known as Echo II that was clandestinely monitored by a law enforcement agent. Echo II is a multi-use facility where attorneys can meet with their clients who are incarcerated at nearby Camp 7.
After witnessing the agent monitoring a meeting—unrelated to this week's hearings—in a control room, Welsh confronted the Joint Detention Group commander, Army Col. Donnie Thomas, who said "Don't worry, we do not monitor any attorney-client meetings," Welsh recounted.
The monitoring equipment was powered down at Echo II after top judge Army Col. James Pohl ordered at the end of January that the government remove a system in the courtroom that allowed yet-unnamed outside organizations to interrupt the live feed of the proceedings, Welsh said.
The pre-trial hearings taking place this week are designed to determine whether the charges against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men were filed properly. These charges include terrorism, conspiring with al Qaeda, and wilfully killing almost 3,000 people on Sept. 11.
The hearings this week have so far been dominated almost exclusively by issues over potential detainee monitoring, which attorneys for the accused terrorists argue violated their rights.
Much of the discussion during the court hearings Tuesday centered on the at least one microphone in a meeting room that resembles a smoke detector. According to Cheryl Bormann, a civilian attorney for Walid bin Attash who is alleged to have helped train the Sept. 11 hijackers, said she had explicitly asked a military guard if a device she found in one of the rooms she used to interview her client was a microphone. The guard told her it wasn't, she recalled.
"It was really not identifiable, it was not readily noticeable," Welsh said, adding that monitoring attorney-client communications would be improper.
"If I knew that was going on, I would have notified my authorities, I would have notified my boss, I would have notified my supervising attorney," he said.
Welsh raised concerns about the monitoring equipment at Echo II arguing it violated U.S. laws forbidding collecting information on U.S. citizens.
The pre-trial hearings will continue through Thursday. A trial date for the five accused terrorists has not yet been set.