Four lawyers who work at the Guantanamo Bay
prison on Tuesday sued the U.S. Department of Defense, claiming
it has exposed them to elevated risks of cancer and other health
problems by forcing them to work in contaminated areas.
The complaint said the U.S. Navy has not properly
investigated whether environmental hazards at the Camp Justice
complex were linked to nine cancer cases since its 2008 opening.
By insisting that the complex is safe despite the known
presence of "carcinogenic substances" such as formaldehyde and
mercury, the Navy has left lawyers with the "untenable" choice
between preserving their health and defending their clients, the
A Pentagon spokesman said the Defense Department does not
discuss pending litigation.
The complaint was filed in the federal court in Washington
by Army Major Matthew Seeger, and civilian lawyers Cheryl
Bormann, Edwin Perry and Michael Schwartz.
All represent Walid Bin Attash, a Yemeni man and suspected
al Qaeda training camp leader charged with helping plot the
Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the
Pentagon outside Washington.
The lawyers are seeking an injunction requiring the Defense
Department to provide accommodations that protect them from the
"known and unknown risks" of living and working at Camp Justice.
The complex is on the site of a former airfield, and
includes temporary housing known as Cuzcos, essentially
trailers, where lawyers live and work, the complaint said.
Three of the nine cancer victims have died, including Navy
Lieutenant Commander Bill Kuebler at age 44 in July 2015, the
Defense Department officials "have the responsibility to
make sure the facilities where military and civilian personnel
are working are safe, but are continuing to order them to work
there despite the presence of known carcinogens," Daniel Small,
a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in an interview.
While none of the plaintiffs has been diagnosed with cancer,
"they have experienced lesser health symptoms," he added.
Small said that his firm, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, and
Venable LLP, which also represents the plaintiffs, are not being
paid for their work on the case.
Only 41 people remain incarcerated at the Guantanamo prison
on the U.S. naval base in Cuba, down from 242 when Barack Obama
The Democrat had tried unsuccessfully to close the prison.
But his Republican successor, Donald Trump, has said he wants to
keep it open, and send more prisoners there.
The case is Seeger et al v. U.S. Department of Defense et
al, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, No. 17-00639.