By Larry Shaughnessy
A copy of the jihadist magazine Inspire was found in a Guantanamo prison cell, a military official revealed Wednesday.
The disclosure that a publication of an al Qaeda-affiliated group found its way into one of the world's most secure detention facilities came during a military hearing for a suspect in the 2000 USS Cole bombing.
The magazine's discovery prompted even tighter security precautions including closer examination of detainee mail, which was the issue under discussion when Cmdr. Andrea Lockhart, a prosecutor, told the military court the magazine had been found.
Defense lawyers for suspect Abd al-Rahim Hussein Mohammed Abdu al Nashiri had argued that the military was unfairly examining privileged communications between attorneys and their client.
The military judge in the case seemed to agree and said Wednesday that the U.S. military needs to change the way it handles the mail between al Nashiri and his lawyers.
Lockhart, in discussing why the rules regarding examination of mail between attorneys and Guantanamo detainees needed to be changed, said "the genesis for the baseline review is that it wasn't working. And there was material that was getting in, like Inspire magazine, that should not have been getting in."
The English-language magazine was mainly the work of Samir Kahn, a one-time North Carolina resident, who U.S. and Yemeni officials say was killed with Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in a drone strike last year. Kahn used his knowledge of computers to help produce a glossy, Western-style magazine called Inspire that touted the edicts of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.
At the hearing Wednesday, after spending half the day debating the process through which privileged mail is sent by defense attorneys to their client, the judge said it'll be two weeks before he makes a ruling, but he also made clear he plans to change the way the mail is handled.
One of al Nashiri's attorneys said the suspect charged in connection with the USS Cole attack was not involved in the magazine incident. "Our client did not, has not, would not receive Inspire magazine," the attorney said.
Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, chief prosecutor for the Office of Military Commissions, speaking to reporters after the hearing closed, said he could not elaborate on what Cmdr. Lockhart said in court about the magazine.
Right now all legal mail to al Nashiri from his attorneys is examined for contraband under an order from Rear Adm. David Woods, who runs the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.
"We have serious misgivings in this order that we need to actually be able to discuss with our client, go over with our client, then give you a more informed opinion," defense attorney Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Reyes told Col. James Pohl, the judge in the case, during a hearing Wednesday at Gitmo.
Prosecutors say the experts, called a Privilege Review Team, do not read the mail, they simply make sure it contains not physical contraband such as a knife and no informational contraband like a map of Guantanamo Bay. They also make sure each page of the mail is properly marked as privileged mail so that when al ashiri's cell is searched by Guantanamo guards during occasional security sweeps, the guards won't look at the lawyer's mail.
"At the end of the day, the proposed solution will address the attorney-client privilege in that no mail is read. It will protect that sanctity and it will balance with the legitimate government interests of running a detention facility," said prosecutor Lockhart.
Pohl gave the defense attorneys seven days to draw up what they consider a satisfactory solution. He'll then give prosecutors seven days to respond, after which he'll make a ruling. "There is going to be a new order in a couple of weeks," Pohl said.
Pohl is overseeing the two-day hearing to address 10 separate motions connected to the case at Guantanamo Bay. A closed-circuit television feed of the hearing is being sent back to Fort Meade, where reporters are monitoring the developments.
Most of the rest of Wednesday's hearing focused on detailed discussion of how classified information that could apply at the trial will be handled.
The goal will be to make sure as much information as possible is summarized in a non-classified document that can be discussed in open court. The defense and prosecutors disagree on exactly how the logistics of that will be handled. The judge plans to come up with a plan in April after more input from both sides.
It is still not clear when the actual trial of al Nashiri will begin. And survivors of the USS Cole bombing told reporters after the hearing that they are angry that it is taking so long.
"I'm here to witness justice," said Paul Abney, a master chief petty officer on the Cole when it was bombed. "It's been over 11 years now since the Cole was bombed."
Seventeen American sailors died in the attack, including Mark Nieto, whose father attended this week's hearing at the Guantanamo base in Cuba.
"Justice is slow, very slow. I just hope that I'll be able to see and be alive when that comes, resolves itself," said Jesse Nieto, 68.