And Then There is the Underwear Story

When people ask me about Guantanamo I try to describe the surreal experience of having a Starbucks a few short miles from a soviet style gulag. I talk about my client Mr. Al-Ghizzawi, who has never been charged with anything and never will be, dying of hepatitis B and not being treated. He and the other men sit in their tiny cells never seeing or talking to anyone, day after day, with no end in sight. I explain how there is no such thing as the attorney client privilege, that I have to turn my notes from my client meetings over to the government for scrutiny and that the search going in and out of the base involves reading my legal documents. Each time I go to Guantanamo the rules are different and just when you think things can't get any sicker, they take it up a notch... in this context the "underwear story" not only makes perfect sense but somehow seems overdue.

A few weeks back one of the habeas counsel, Clive Stafford Smith of the organization "Reprieve" received a letter from a military lawyer at the base. Seems that there was a major security breach at the base and an investigation is under way:

"Your client, Shaker Aamer, detainee ISN 239, was recently discovered to be wearing Under Armor briefs and a Speedo bathing suit. Neither item was issued to the detainee by JTF-Guantánamo personnel, nor did they enter the camp through regular mail. Coincidentally, Muhammed al-Qareni, detainee ISN 269, who is represented by Mr. Katznelson of Reprieve, was also recently discovered to be wearing Under Armor briefs. As with detainee ISN 239, the briefs were not issued by JTF-Guantánamo personnel, nor did they enter the camp through regular mail.

We are investigating this matter to determine the origins of the above

contraband and ensure that parties who may have been involved understand the seriousness of this transgression...."

Clive doesn't know who smuggled in the Under Armour briefs, in fact, as Clive explained in his response to the military, Clive had never heard of that particular brand of underwear until the letter arrived. Clive suggested that the military investigate its own people, as we attorneys are searched entering and leaving (albeit they don't check to see if we have underwear on and whether or not it is still on when we are leaving...yet) and there is a camera's on us during the entire visit with our clients. As to the Speedo, Clive wrote back:

"I cannot imagine who would want to give my client Speedos, or why. Mr. Aamer is hardly in a position to go swimming, since the only available water is the toilet in his cell.

I should say that your letter brought to mind a sign in the changing room of a local swimming pool, which showed someone diving into a lavatory, with the caption, "We don't swim in your toilet, so please don't pee in our pool". I presume that nobody thinks that Mr. Aamer wears Speedos while paddling in his privy."

I don't know how much time and energy will go into the military's investigation of the contraband underwear and Speedo. If it is anything like the investigations that led to most of the men being held at Guantanamo then we can expect many years of interrogations, finger pointing and then silence. I do know that there are several men at Guantanamo (my client included) who are dying from medical neglect under our military's careful eye. One can only hope that this investigation is completed quickly, that the military rounds up the sinister underwear smugglers and brings them to justice. Maybe after that investigation is completed the military can find a minute or two to check out the health of the men that have been wrongly held for more than five years without any charges against them. Or better yet, investigate why the hell most of these men were ever brought to Guantanamo in the first place.