WAR COURT

Pentagon defense counsel: Guantánamo tech woes are worse

 
 
U.S. Army military judge Col. James L. Pohl, shown in this July 7, 2005 file photo at Fort Hood, Texas, is the chief of the Guantanamo military commissions judiciary.
U.S. Army military judge Col. James L. Pohl, shown in this July 7, 2005 file photo at Fort Hood, Texas, is the chief of the Guantanamo military commissions judiciary.
LM OTERO / ASSOCIATED PRESS

crosenberg@miamiherald.com

Chronic problems of Pentagon computer network insecurity have gotten worse in the five months since the military commissions chief defense counsel declared the system too compromised for Sept. 11 trial preparations, the counsel testified Wednesday.

Emails don’t arrive, legal motions have been stripped off electronic notices and case work that vanished has yet to be found, Col. Karen Mayberry testified in a defense bid to freeze the death-penalty proceedings until the Pentagon builds a separate, secure system for the war crimes court’s defense lawyers.

In an act of exceptional defiance in April, Mayberry, a career Air Force lawyer, directed her defense teams to keep their confidential work off the war court network. Wednesday, she testified that, after fresh failures in an email migration, it’s currently better for defense teams in the complex death-penalty case to use their home computers, private emails and coffee shop WiFi to conduct their business.

“We’ve got more issues now than we did then and we’ve resolved very little of the ones that existed at the time,” Mayberry said.

A case prosecutor, civilian attorney Ed Ryan, noted that the Department of Defense network was good enough for the courts martial of Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning and Army Maj. Nidal Hassan, both convicted recently in separate intelligence leak and Fort Hood shooting spree cases.

Attorney David Nevin, defending the alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, countered that public defenders across the country work off their own network protected from even inadvertent prosecution intrusion.

That’s what the Pentagon claims happened earlier this year when the war court prosecutor’s office instructed the Defense Department’s information technology division to search its email to comply with a court’s order — and the search delivered to the prosecution thousands of pages of defense lawyers’ privileged work product instead. Chief prosecutor Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins says nobody read them after seeing one defense email and realizing what happened.

That’s also what happened when the war court’s technical team tried to mirror Washington-area files in a Guantánamo server — and draft motions, research notes and other case-related material vanished. In a failed bid to restore the files, defense and prosecution lawyers suddenly had access to the other side’s work.

Defense lawyers say the information technology snafus compromise their ethical obligations of confidentiality and the attorney-client privilege in the case that seeks the military execution of five men brought here by the CIA in 2006 for trial as alleged plotters of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Mayberry said she has been working with senior Pentagon officials to design a safe, separate system, but it could take 65 to 100 days to implement after the Pentagon settles on a plan and funds it.

The judge, Army Col. James Pohl, sounded dubious about the prospect of freezing the proceedings pending a fix.

He noted that he was not being asked by the government to order Mayberry’s attorney to resume doing their work on the current Pentagon computer system. Nor, he said, was he being asked to fund or choose a new email system or server.

“You want a 100 percent fail-safe system?” he asked.

Mayberry replied that the goal was to “remove the possibility of human error as much as possible.”

Read more Guantánamo stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Algerian Djamel Ameziane, a 42-year-old ethnic Berber, has been approved for release but wants to go to Canada, or another country, rather than the nation he fled in 1992. His lawyers have chosen Canada because he lived there for five years, and filed a failed application for political asylum. From Canada he went to Afghanistan, where he was captured in the U.S. invasion.

    IN THE COURTS

    Ex-Guantánamo detainee can’t get his money back

    Federal judge concludes a former Guantánamo detainee may no longer be a threat, but his money is.

  •  
The Kremlin.

    Russia bans congressman, 12 other Americans

    Russia has placed a U.S. lawmaker and 12 other people connected with the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq on its list of those banned from entering the country.

  •  
In this image from video, Eugene R. Fidell, the lawyer representing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl said Wednesday, July 16, 2014, in an interview with The Associated Press that his client has been vilified by some people, but the public should not leap to conclusions before the Army finishes its investigation into how and why the soldier left his post in Afghanistan before being captured by the Taliban.

    Bergdahl hires lawyer for military investigation

    The lawyer representing Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl said Wednesday that his client has been vilified by some people, but the public should not leap to conclusions before the Army finishes its investigation into how and why the soldier left his post in Afghanistan before being captured by the Taliban.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category