Across several days at Guantánamo last month, lawyers and the military jousted at the war court over whether it was possible to know that a listening device was affixed to the ceilings of the cells where defense attorneys meet the men accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The overarching issue was attorney-client privilege and whether some secret agency was violating it by eavesdropping on lawyers meeting with their clients at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba.
Army and Navy officers testified that nobody was listening, and the equipment was a legacy from the days when the FBI controlled those particular cells.
But the question batted back and forth was whether the lawyers for alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other men could’ve known the cell they were sitting in was bugged. Especially after, defense lawyer Cheryl Bormann said a prison guard told her it was a smoke detector.
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Now the court of public opinion can decide.
The Pentagon on Monday released a photo of the device — identified in court as a Louroe AP-4 audio surveillance unit — a month after defense lawyers had it put into the court record. Pentagon rules give intelligence agencies 15 days to propose redactions of each and every war court exhibit, in case release might endanger national security.
Army Col. John Bogdan, the chief of the guard force who functions as the prison warden, testified on Feb. 13 that he got the impression it was a smoke detector, too. But, under questioning from case prosecutor Ed Ryan, Bogdan said that once he looked carefully he realized, “It was clearly a microphone.”
Prosecutor Clay Trivett also advised the judge: “It has a name on it and a simple Google search will show it’s a microphone.”
The meeting rooms at the prison camp site called Echo II should be bug free by the time the hearings resume next month at Guantánamo.
On Feb. 14, the judge agreed to a request to have the devices disabled. The judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, called them “the smoke detectors, for want of a better term.”
Not skipping a beat, prosecutor Ryan corrected Pohl: “The microphones that might look like a smoke detector, yes, Your Honor.”