No writing allowed

Statement to CSHRA
by Candace Gorman
March 27, 2012

My last two trips to Guantanamo were the weeks of December 5, 2011 and July 10, 2011. I think it is fair to say that the procedures for attorney client visits change frequently however the changes during the last two visits were the most dramatic. Before I discuss those changes I want to backtrack just a bit. When I first started visiting my clients in 2006 I could bring with me attorney-client materials, including unclassified court pleadings, letters that I had sent to my clients and of course any notes of things that I wanted to discuss with my clients. A few years later—I want to say in 08 but I am not exactly sure when—we were not allowed to bring with us any materials that were not in English unless a government translator reviewed and OKd the materials. I was in the awkward position of having my attorney client mail that I would bring with me to make sure my client had received, being read by the military. I complained but to no avail—so I stopped bringing the Arabic translations and instead brought only my English versions of the letters. That was the process until this past year. When I went to visit my client in July I went through the usual screening—having my bag looked into and the food that I brought my client reviewed for contraband (straws, plastic ware, etc.) and then I walked over to the military lawyer desk and I was asked if I had anything with writing on it. I said “of course.” I was told that they wanted to review it and I said all I had with me was an unclassified version of my clients Traverse (the reply to his habeas petition) and I had a letter from the DOJ counsel telling me that this was the version that I was permitted to show my client. The military lawyer reviewed the materials and allowed them in. I was then told that I was not allowed to bring my wallet (which was in my brief case) into the meeting. I said “really?” I was told that I could put my wallet in the transport van and the escort would give it back to me after the meeting. No explanation was given to me as to why I could not bring my wallet.

In my December meeting I only brought with me a pad of paper with some notes on it to remind myself of things I wanted to discuss. After going through the usual screening I went over to the military lawyer desk and they asked if I had anything with me that had writing on it. I said “No, just some notes that I made.” I was then told that they wanted to look at the notes and I said “No.” That is when I was told that I could not bring into the meeting anything with writing on it unless they approved it. I told them I would not allow them to review my notes at which point I was told that I would have to put my notes back in the bus. Instead, I reviewed my notes as I was standing there and then tore the piece of paper into tiny pieces and threw my notes in the garbage. I was then asked if there was anything in my wallet with writing on it. I did not say “duhhhh.” I politely asked what they meant by that question and I was told if there was anything with writing on it-IDs-money, anything with writing-then my wallet could not go into the meeting either. I gave my wallet to the escort and walked into my meeting with my client. I did however have one thing with writing in my briefcase. I always carry a pocket edition of the constitution in my briefcase and when my brief case was screened no one mentioned it. It seemed to me to be the one thing I really needed in this day and age (and place) and since no one mentioned it during the screening I decided the constitution was safe, for now….