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DOJ tells court legal notes may have aided Guantanamo suicide plot

[JURIST] US Department of Justice [official website] lawyers said Friday in court documents that Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees may have used paper provided by lawyers to plan the three suicides [JURIST report] that occurred at the prison last month. The US filed a request with the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] asking for permission to review about 1,100 pounds of confiscated personal papers [JURIST report] taken from prisoners as part of the investigation into the suicides after authorities found a note written in Arabic related to the suicides in the cell of one of the deceased inmates. The papers seized include notes marked "privileged attorney-client material" and suggest that detainees were misusing the attorney-client communication system in what Guantanamo commander Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr. [official profile] labeled acts of "asymmetric warfare."

If the government's request is granted, a special panel will review all the detainees documents, including letters from attorneys, and would report anything found that threatens national security or "imminent violence," but not any information that violates attorney-client privilege. Detainees' lawyers believe such a panel would weaken trust between the prisoners and their lawyers and delay the proceedings, but the government insists the panel would be completely independent, ensuring the protection of detainees' rights. Bill Goodman, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights [advocacy website], which represents about 200 detainees, has denied that any lawyers were involved in the suicide plot, explaining to the New York Times that guards checked lawyers' briefcases before and after they spent time with clients and "certainly if something is written on the back in Arabic, the guards are going to see it." AP has more. The New York Times has additional coverage.

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