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News Release ~ 10/13/2017

General Finds Good Cause to Allow the Withdrawal of Three Members of Defense Team in U.S.S. Cole Trial at Military Commissions in Guantanamo; Proceedings Plagued by Government Violations of Attorney-Client Privilege

Washington, DC (Oct. 13, 2017) – Today, Brig. Gen. John Baker, the Chief Defense Counsel for the Military Commissions Defense Organization, found good cause to allow the withdrawal of three members of the defense team in the case of United States v. Nashiri due to concerns that the government compromised attorney-client confidentiality. United States v. Nashiri is the trial of Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, who is the alleged mastermind of the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole.

Rick Jones, President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), issued the following statement:

"The accusations of government overreach have plagued the Guantanamo military commissions since their inception. Instances of the government eavesdropping on confidential attorney-client conversations have been documented repeatedly, from them using fake smoke detectors as listening devices to attempting to turn non-attorneys on the defense team into informants.

"Today’s excusal of three defense lawyers proves again the flawed nature of these commissions. Attorney-client privilege is a linchpin to any fair criminal trial. Without it, justice cannot be sought nor served.

"General Baker found good cause to allow the withdrawal of three civilian lawyers, including Mary Spears, Rosa Eliades, and learned counsel Richard Kammen. Regardless of whether this is due to outrageous overreach or deliberate malicious action by the government, today’s action proves that the military commissions system is fundamentally damaged. This government interference with the defense team caused an ethical crisis which dealt yet another blow to an already flawed system."

NACDL has long been concerned about attorney-client privilege at Guantanamo, as reflected, for example, in its 2012 NACDL ethics opinion. Previous NACDL statements on Guantanamo and attorney-client communications can be found here and here.

Contact

Alexandra Funk, NACDL Public Affairs & Communications Assistant, (202) 465-7647 or afunk@nacdl.org 

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.

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