Guantánamo prison to build a $235K legal meeting site. Ex-CIA captives can’t use it.

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.

The Guantánamo prison spokeswoman said Tuesday that a prefabricated $235,156 six-detainee legal meeting site is not being built for the six men accused in death-penalty cases to meet with their lawyers. Rather, said Navy Cmdr. Anne Leanos, the contract awarded to a Missouri firm last month is to build a modular building for low-value detainees to meet with attorneys and receive phone calls.

“This legal center is for the detainee population in Camps V and VI,” Leanos said by email in response to a question about a remark in a war court filing by prosecutors in the USS Cole case.

Camp 6 is where the military houses about two dozen of the prison’s 26 low-value detainees, with at least two of them held across the street in a special segregation site at Camp Echo, where the current attorney-client meeting site is also located. Camp 5 is currently used as a health clinic. Guantánamo’s 15 “high-value prisoners,” who spent years in secret CIA custody, are kept in Camp 7.

From the prosecution filing at the U.S. Court of Military Commissions Review.

The prison advertised plans to build the new legal site — complete with a room to eavesdrop on telephone calls — in December after then Military Commissions Convening Authority Harvey Rishikof recommended that the prison build a “clean facility.” Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis subsequently fired Rishikof.

It was not known to the public at the time that USS Cole defense team members discovered at least one microphone in their meeting room at Camp Delta — but Rishikof and defense attorneys in the death-penalty cases knew. Sept. 11 defense lawyers had years earlier also discovered a listening device hidden in their ostensibly confidential attorney-client meeting site at Camp Echo.

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

Prosecutors said in a March 28 filing at the U.S. Court of Military Commissions Review that the Guantánamo prison had already found a “temporary building” inside the Detention Center Zone “that contains no audio monitoring capability” for the alleged plotter of the Oct. 12, 2000, USS Cole bombing to meet with his lone defense attorney, former Navy SEAL Lt. Alaric Piette.

Meantime, the prosecutors wrote: “The Joint Task Force currently has no plans to build a new facility of the type recommended by the former Convening Authority for high value detainees … in light of the availability of suitable existing structures.”

Requirements for the new low-value detainee legal meeting site include three wheelchair-accessible restrooms. 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. But Leanos’ remark made clear that the man, Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, would not have access to the new site. In addition, an attorney responsible for handling plea deal cases uses a wheelchair.