New York Review of Books Reads The Guantanamo Lawyers

David Cole’s article “What to Do About Guantánamo?“, appearing now in the New York Review of Books, draws much of its insight from our groundbreaking book, The Guantanamo Lawyers, edited by Mark Denbeaux and Jonathan Hafetz.

The Guantánamo Lawyers: Inside a Prison Outside the Law, a collective account by the lawyers who have volunteered to represent the island’s prisoners, provides an invaluable perspective—or more accurately, perspectives, since more than one hundred lawyers contributed to the volume. These men and women, all working for nothing, have gained intimate access to those whom the United States sought to keep hidden behind strictly closed doors. The significance of what they have learned is reflected in how the United States treats them. They must obtain security clearances and be sworn to secrecy in order to see the detainees. The notes they take while meeting with their clients are deemed presumptively “classified,” and are subjected to official review and editing—”redaction”—before the lawyers can read them off the base. And they are barred from informing the detainees of any events occurring in the outside world without prior approval. One lawyer was reprimanded for showing a client a news clipping reporting that President Bush wanted to close Guantánamo, another for telling her client that his mother had died.

The stories these lawyers have been able to tell, adroitly edited by Mark Denbeaux and Jonathan Hafetz, offer a multifaceted portrait of life on the base. Sometimes they read as farce. Clive Stafford Smith, a British lawyer who has represented many detainees, was accused by a Guantá- namo commander of smuggling “Under Armor briefs”—i.e., underpants—and a Speedo swimsuit to two of his clients. Smith responded in a letter that he had not sought to bring underwear to his clients; that he could not have done so even if he wanted to, since every visit is preceded by a thorough search and monitored by camera; and that as he and his cocounsel had not even seen one of the clients for a year, “it is physically impossible for us to have delivered anything to him that recently surfaced on his person.” But Smith was “unwilling to allow the issue of underwear to drop there,” and continued…

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