Guantánamo

Pentagon picks Missouri firm to build legal meeting site at Guantánamo

Attorney-client meeting room at Guantánamo Bay

A look inside ​a ​legal meeting room ​at the 24-cell ​Camp ​Echo ​at Guantánamo Bay ​as shown to reporters in 2014.
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A look inside ​a ​legal meeting room ​at the 24-cell ​Camp ​Echo ​at Guantánamo Bay ​as shown to reporters in 2014.

A Missouri firm that specializes in providing prefabricated buildings to the U.S. military has won a contract to provide a $235,156 pop-up site for defense lawyers to meet with six captives at Guantánamo, listening room and all.

The Pentagon announcement awarding the contract to Hunter Saak of Jonesburg, Missouri, included a sketch of the proposed wheelchair-accessible, 30-foot-by-70-foot modular building. It shows six 10-by-10-foot windowless meetings rooms, a monitored telephone room of the same size and an equipment room, which has the word “listen” beside it.

RELATED: “Guantánamo plan for eavesdrop-proof legal meeting site has a ‘listening room’ ”

The specifications say the site will include a “Privileged Team Room” with two work stations for “technical and security staff” to conduct “communication monitoring of the Phone Room.” Telephone calls between lawyers and captives have never been considered confidential. Instead, security staff members listen in, with the authority to pull the plug on the conversations if they cross into sensitive or classified information.

The senior Pentagon official overseeing military commissions, Convening Authority Harvey Rishikof, proposed the new site before he was fired in February for reasons the public has yet to know. Since then, prosecutors have released one reason why three civilian defense attorneys quit the case against the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing: They discovered a microphone in their legal meeting space for ostensibly confidential attorney-client consultations.

The Pentagon prosecutor says the microphone was a leftover from an earlier era of interrogations at Guantánamo and was never turned on.

Separately, on Monday, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis submitted a three-page filing under seal in the 9/11 terrorism case explaining his reasons for firing Rishikof, whose legal adviser Gary Brown was also dismissed. Lawyers who saw it said, because it was sealed, they could not describe its contents. Nor could they say what the Department of Defense general counsel, William Castle, wrote in his eight-page filing explaining why Brown was fired.

RELATED: “Sept. 11 trial judge orders defense secretary to explain firing of war court overseer”

Requirements for the new site include three wheelchair-accessible restrooms — one for the captives, and the other two “public restrooms” for men and women. An Iraqi captive awaiting a war crimes trial has been using a walker and wheelchair as he recovers from a series of emergency back surgeries. In addition, an attorney responsible for handling plea deal cases uses a wheelchair.

The meeting rooms are to have no light-switches, the specifications say, and are to include a conduit for a closed-circuit TV camera with lights and camera to be managed by a control room complete with “CCTV monitoring and communications equipment.”

In a nod to the hurricane season that has disrupted both hearings and meetings at the remote base, the specifications said Hunter Saak must “provide necessary tie-down to resist destructive weather events.”

RELATED: “Now we know why defense attorneys quit the USS Cole case. They found a microphone.”

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