GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba, Jan 18 (Reuters) - A copy of an al Qaeda-linked magazine was delivered to the Guantanamo detention camp for suspected terrorists, a military prosecutor revealed on Wednesday during a courtroom discussion of mail security.
The camp commander, Rear Admiral David Woods, issued orders last month tightening the screening of mail sent by lawyers to their clients at the camp that holds 171 captives on the Guantanamo Bay U.S. naval base in Cuba.
In a pretrial hearing for suspected al Qaeda bomber Abd al Rahim al Nashiri at the Guantanamo war crimes court on Tuesday, Woods testified that the new rules were necessary to prevent contraband from entering the camp, but he gave no specifics.
One of the prosecutors in Nashiri’s case said in court on Wednesday that the old system had not worked.
“There was material getting in like Inspire magazine that should not have been getting in,” said the prosecutor, Navy Commander Andrea Lockhart.
Inspire magazine bills itself as the publication of Yemeni-based group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and famously published an article titled, “Make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom.” The United States considers it a propaganda and recruitment vehicle for the group, and killed its editor in a drone strike in Yemen in September.
A Pentagon spokesman could not immediately provide details concerning the copy that wound up in Guantanamo.
Lockhart indicated it was sent by a civilian lawyer representing a detainee challenging his Guantanamo detention in the U.S. District Court in Washington. Those civilian “habeas corpus” cases are separate from the war crimes tribunals taking place in fits and starts at Guantanamo.
Nashiri is the only prisoner currently facing charges in a tribunal, and his lawyer said he was not the one who received the Inspire magazine.
The 47-year-old Saudi citizen is accused of orchestrating the October 2000 attack that killed 17 U.S. sailors and injured dozens more aboard the USS Cole. Suicide bombers rammed a boat full of explosives into the side of the American warship while it refueled in the Yemeni port of Aden, blowing a huge hole in its side.
He could be executed if he is convicted of charges that include murder, attempted murder, conspiring with al Qaeda and attacking civilians.
Two days of pretrial hearings in his case this week focused partly on the mail restrictions that Woods imposed for the other 170 prisoners. Woods said teams of Pentagon contractors, who included lawyers, translators and former intelligence officers, reviewed the mail to ensure it did not contain physical or informational contraband. Under his rules, the screeners divided mail into three categories.
Nashiri’s lawyers argued that in order to carry out that task, the screeners had to read confidential legal mail. They said submitting case-related documents under that system would force them to illegally disclose trial strategy, violating Nashiri’s right to a fair trial. They said it was also an ethical violation that potentially could put their own law licenses in jeopardy.
The judge in the case, Army Colonel James Pohl, heard arguments from both sides and said he would issue an order in a couple of weeks outlining procedures for the handling of Nashiri’s legal mail.
Nashiri was captured in Dubai in 2002 and held in secret CIA custody until his transfer to Guantanamo in 2006. Prosecutors hope to start his trial by March 2013 at the latest. The defense said it would not be ready before March 2015, in part because it hopes to receive about 570,000 pages of evidence, some of which must be translated and some of which requires special handling because it is secret.
The long wait for the start of the trial and the focus on Nashiri’s rights was frustrating for families of the sailors killed aboard the Cole more than 11 years ago. Two sailors who survived the attack traveled to Guantanamo to attend the hearing, as did relatives of three sailors killed on the ship.
“Justice is slow, very slow,” said 68-year-old Jesse Nieto, whose son Marc Nieto died in the blast. “I just hope that I’ll be able to see and be alive when the outcome resolves itself.”
Oliva Rux, whose husband Kevin Rux died aboard the Cole, said, “I have nothing but time to wait, to wait until that detainee takes his last breath.”
Editing by Kevin Gray and Paul Simao