Attorney-Client Meeting Rooms Implanted with Cameras that can Read ‘Tiny Writing’ and Microphones Disguised as Smoke Detectors that can Hear ‘Whispers’
Seton Hall University School of Law’s Center for Policy & Research has issued a report: “Spying on Attorneys at GTMO: Guantanamo Bay Military Commissions and the Destruction of the Attorney-Client Relationship.” The report details the surveillance and recording technology in designated attorney-client meeting rooms at Guantanamo Bay— capacities that are inexplicable unless being utilized to eavesdrop on confidential communications. The report also details the often contradictory if not false government statements regarding attorney-client privacy and the utilization (or even the existence) of the hyper-sensitive monitoring equipment installed in the supposedly private rooms.
The issue of government surveillance encroaching upon attorney-client privacy is expected to come to a head in the upcoming Military Commission Hearings in Guantanamo Bay.
Law Professor Mark Denbeaux, Director of the Seton Hall Law School’s Center for Policy and Research, commented, “If the government has spied on attorney client communications discussing trial strategy the legitimacy of the military commissions is again in grave jeopardy. It is now clear that the government has secretly implanted surveillance equipment in the meeting rooms that has spying capacities that are inexplicable unless being utilized to eavesdrop on confidential attorney client communications. The court must determine the extent to which such communications have been penetrated; if the government spying allows the government to know an attorney’s defense before trial, the proceeding ceases to be a trial and is reduced to a farce.”
The Seton Hall Law Report concludes that lawyers at Guantanamo Bay can no longer assure their clients that the government is not listening to their conversations or reading or recording the attorneys’ written notes. The report further notes that:
  • Listening devices in the attorney-client meeting rooms are disguised as smoke detectors.
  • The listening devices are so hypersensitive that they can detect even whispers between attorneys and their clients.
  • Cameras in the attorney-client meeting rooms are so powerful that they can read attorneys’ handwritten notes and other confidential documents.
  • The cameras can be operated secretly from a location outside of the room.
  • The attorney-client meeting rooms turn out to have been the former CIA interrogation facility.
  • Importantly, the CIA recording equipment was upgraded after the CIA left.
“With cameras and microphones so powerful they can read ‘tiny writing’ and hear ‘whispers,’ the government assurance of a right to counsel seems more like a trap than a right,” said report co-author and Seton Hall Law student Adam Kirchner.


Center for Policy and Research Featured in “The New Yorker”

Yesterday, The New Yorker ran an article featuring the research of Seton Hall Law professors Jonathan Hafetz and Mark Denbeaux and the Center for Policy and Research Fellows.  The article, “The Dark Ages: A Critic at Large,” details the origins of the War on Terror and analyzes how due process and other legal matters have changed over time. The article draws on two books written by Professor Hafetz, “Habeas Corpus After 9/11:  Confronting America’s New Global Detention System,” and “The Guantanamo Lawyers:  Inside a Prison, Outside the Law,” which was co-edited by Professor Denbeaux.

The article brings to light the brutal tactics used by the DOD in interrogations of detainees at Guantanamo and other military installations throughout the world.  It also points out that the Bush administration was not held accountable for these alleged human rights abuses, instead choosing to create rules and procedures ad hoc to work around existing international and domestic laws.  In addition to citing Professor Hafetz and Professor Denbeaux’s work, the article references the Center for Policy & Research’s flagship “Report on Guantanamo Detainees: A Profile of 517 Detainees through Analysis of Department of Defense Data,” noting that only five per cent of Guantanamo detainees had been arrested by U.S. forces.  Pakistani and Northern Alliance forces had captured forty-seven per cent based on bounties issued by the U.S. military.

In addition to this reference, the Guantanamo Reports have been introduced into the Congressional record by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, and as part of a Resolution by the European Parliament.  While the Center for Policy and Research is still working to uncover information regarding Guantanamo Bay and the treatment of detainees, work done by its students and faculty continues to affect public opinion and policy change.

Christopher Whitten, Research Fellow
Center for Policy & Research

The Media Portrayal of GTMO Attorneys

Zero Dark Thirty, the recently released movie chronicling the hunt for Osama bin Laden, has been winning over audiences and came in at #2 in the Box Office this past week (grossing $1.2 million this week, and $58.1 million to date).  While the movie is undoubtedly well-made, it is just that, a movie, not a documentary.

While many of the Center for Policy and Research fellows have enjoyed the film since its release, all acknowledge that some element of creative license was taken with regards to its depiction of the events surrounding UBL’s capture.

Yesterday, The Hill published a blog post entitled “What Zero Dark Thirty gets wrong about Guantanamo lawyers.” The post was inspired specifically by a scene in the movie in which the CIA believes UBL may be hiding in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  After a government official asks whether a GTMO detainee may be able to confirm his location, a CIA operative responds, “Who the hell am I supposed to ask, some guy in Gitmo who’s all lawyered up?” He then explains that he is skeptical and believes that any GTMO lawyer would simply tip off al-Qaeda.The post continues to question the movie’s portrayal of defense attorneys and its depiction of their motives.

As a law student working in the Center for Policy and Research, I have had the opportunity to meet and interact with several Guantanamo lawyers, in addition to working closely with our director, Guantanamo lawyer and Professor Mark Denbeaux.  After two and years as a Center fellow, I can confidently say that I wholeheartedly disagree with the assertion that defense attorneys (particularly GTMO defense attorneys) are “morally questionable hired guns” or “traitors.” The authors of this post are correct: these attorneys are well-intentioned human rights lawyers who work tirelessly to uphold the Constitution.  On the walls of our office, a group of Center alumni have hung a quote which reads:

“The Part I took in Defence of Cptn. Preston and the Soldiers, procured me Anxiety, and Obloquy enough.  It was however one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country.” -John Adams

Like the GTMO lawyers, Adams took part in defending individuals who were politically unpopular, yet he understood that his role in their defense assisted in upholding the Constitution of the United States.  Yes, GTMO attorneys are working to protect the interests of their clients, but they are also working to protect the interests of our country, a crucial detail which is rarely recognized in depictions of defense attorneys in popular culture.

Read “What Zero Dark Thirty gets wrong about Guantanamo lawyers” here.

Kelly Ann Taddonio, Research Fellow

Center for Policy & Research