Gitmo Detainees Rebuffing Their Own Lawyers

The New York Times reports that many Guantanamo detainees are refusing to meet with or even accept mail from their own lawyers. They no longer trust them.

The detainees’ resistance appears to have been fueled by frustration over their long detention and suspicion about whether their lawyers are working for the government, as well as anti-American sentiment, some of the documents and interviews show. “Your role is to polish Bush’s shoes and make the picture look good,” a Yemeni detainee, Adnan Farhan Abdullatif, 31, wrote his lawyer in February.

Is the Government behind this? Many of the lawyers think so.


Clive A. Stafford Smith, a lawyer who represents 35 detainees, said one of his clients, Omar Deghayes, a Libyan, had said that in lawyer-client meetings at Guantánamo, “we all know that everything we say in these rooms is being monitored by them.” Military officials say they do not eavesdrop on those meetings.

Mr. Stafford Smith also said several of his clients had described what he said were efforts by Guantánamo officials to foster detainees’ distrust of the lawyers. He said detainees had described investigators’ telling them that their lawyers were Jewish or gay or that prisoners with lawyers were less likely to be released than those without them.

Mr. Stafford Smith and other lawyers also said clients had told them of investigators who posed as lawyers and then questioned detainees.

The military denies Smith's claims. Yet, it can't deny they have seized legal mail from the detainees.

Court records show that the detainees’ concerns about whether lawyers’ mail will remain confidential may be based, in part, on experience. Officials acknowledged in court last year that during an investigation after three suicides at Guantánamo in June they seized written materials and personal items from all detainees, a total of more than 1,100 pounds, “including legal material and other correspondence.”

Other lawyers point to the restrictions imposed on what they can do for their clients, the setbacks in the courts for those challenging their detentions and the length of time they've been incarcerated.

“Every lawyer is afraid, every time they go down there, that their clients won’t see them,” said Mark P. Denbeaux, a professor at Seton Hall University School of Law who represents two Guantánamo detainees. “And it’s getting worse, because it’s pretty hard to say we’re offering them anything.”

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    sounds a bit like the government has instigated (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by scribe on Sat May 05, 2007 at 07:20:06 AM EST
    some Stockholm syndrome in these guys, too.  I would not be surprised if the "BSCT" teams had this as an objective.

    We've Crossed The Line In Guantanamo (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by john horse on Sun May 06, 2007 at 08:47:59 AM EST
    The public radio show This American Life recently did a program on Guantanamo called Habeas Schmabeas that I can't recommend enough  (click on icon for full episode to listen).

    Take the story of the detainee from Ghambia.  He felt abandoned because he didn't get any letters from any of his five children.  His lawyer discovered there were 16 letters from his children that were just never delivered.  Someone took the time to go through the letters and redact the following phrases:
    "We love you."
    "We miss you."
    "We are thinking of you."

    In Guantanamo we have abandoned the concept of justice.  That is why "we love you" is a message that is not permitted.  That is why there have been known cases where prisoners have signed confessions to acts that they did not commit.  That is why these prisoners are now rebuffing their own lawyers.  We have become like the governments we were always against.  Guantanamo is the monster produced by our dreams of revenge.  

    Where is the resistance coming from? (none / 0) (#1)
    by lilybart on Sat May 05, 2007 at 06:51:42 AM EST
    Who is responsible for the mess at Gitmo? Who is standing in the way of processing these people one way or another?

    cheney again?
    how can a man with daily near-death experiences just get nastier day by day?

    If you don't have access to a lawyer (none / 0) (#3)
    by profmarcus on Sat May 05, 2007 at 10:43:57 AM EST
    you won't be able to "rebuff" her...

    i can certainly see why detainees might think the attorneys were working for the government... i can certainly see why they might resist their help because nothing will come of it... and i can certainly see how, given the obstacles deliberately placed in the way, seeing an attorney just might be more hassle than it's worth... but further limiting detainees' rights to access legal counsel, no matter what the detainees' attitudes toward legal counsel may be, is wrong, wrong, wrong... it's just as wrong as keeping detainees in guantánamo for years and years without being charged, just as wrong as using torture to extract information, and just as wrong as using extraordinary rendition and operating a series of cia black sites...

    And, yes, I DO take it personally

    sabotaging the tribunals (none / 0) (#4)
    by diogenes on Sat May 05, 2007 at 10:35:48 PM EST
    If I were guilty, I wouldn't cooperate with lawyers only to be found guilty based on the facts.  I'd pretend to be angry and mistrustful and try to prevent any sort of trial that might sentence me for anything I'd done.

    Not cooperating because they are guilty? (none / 0) (#6)
    by lindalawyer on Mon May 07, 2007 at 07:39:40 AM EST
    You must not be a criminal defense lawyer.  "Guilty" defendants cooperate all the time with their lawyers. On the other hand, I assume that if any one of us were in a foreign country and the situation were reversed, some of us might see no reson to aid the government in putting the patina of due process on what in fact was the absence of any process.

    It's extremely common (none / 0) (#7)
    by Deconstructionist on Mon May 07, 2007 at 07:53:39 AM EST
      for defendants (regardless of guilt or innocence) to be distrustful of attorneys provided by the government. Ask any public defender or private defense attorney who accepts panel appointments. The reasons for the distrust are multiple and not always totally irrational.

      When you add the philosophical,  cultural and social barriers present in the case of foreign "defendants" completely unfamiliar with our system to the inherent problem of some strange lawyer who one had no role in selecting  showing up and saying "I'm on your side, trust me," it would be quite amazing if there was not significant distrust among at least some of the detainees.



    gitmo lawyer access (none / 0) (#8)
    by ltgesq on Mon May 07, 2007 at 10:12:24 AM EST
    In many of these countries, hiring a lawyer means they will fix the case.  If these guys have lawyers, and they are still in (and still being questioned), I can see why they might think there was no point at all.

    This administration has such distain for the law, constitution, and sense of fair play, that nothing will release these people until there is a change in administration.  The innocent are kept there to cover for the fact that there are innocents there.  The guilty are kept there, because they don't want to disclose the illegal measures they took to aquire evidence.   Also, once they are released, we get to find out how long they have actully been in custody.

    All of this is the same rationale for keeping US troops in Iraq.  To keep from embarrasing the president.  That is the only reason.