Sun, Sep 16, 2007 - Page 1 News List

US military ruffled over undergarments at Guantanamo Bay


The US military has discovered two prisoners at Guantanamo were sporting contraband underwear -- and is investigating whether attorneys supplied the men with more than legal briefs.

Both prisoners were caught wearing Under Armour briefs and one also had on a Speedo bathing suit, items the military said were not issued by Guantanamo staff or sent through the regular mail, according to a Department of Defense letter obtained on Friday.

Army Lieutenant Colonel Ed Bush, a spokesman at the jail holding some 340 men on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, said more was involved than just an uproar over skivvies.

He said the appearance of contraband raised serious concerns about the potential for smuggling other items that could be used by detainees to harm themselves or staff, without providing details.

Three prisoners who committed suicide in June last year hanged themselves with nooses made from bed sheets. The military has not disclosed the method used by a detainee who killed himself in May.

"There is no room for error when working in a dangerous environment, and constant vigilance is of the utmost importance," Bush said.

The letter, sent last month by the Navy Judge Advocate General to an attorney for one of the prisoners, noted both detainees are represented by the British human rights group Reprieve and suggested their lawyers may have "surreptitiously" provided the unauthorized undergarments.

"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," said the letter, which was provided by one of the attorneys, Clive Stafford Smith.

Stafford Smith calls the suggestion that he or the other attorney, Zachary Katznelson, smuggled underwear to prisoners "patently absurd."

"Neither I, nor Mr Katznelson, nor anyone else associated with us has had anything to do with smuggling `unmentionables' in to these men, nor would we ever do so," he wrote in response.

Stafford Smith said lawyers are searched when they enter the detention center and a camera monitors them while they visit clients.

"The idea that we could smuggle in underwear is farfetched," he wrote in his reply to the Judge Advocate General.

One of the detainees -- the one with the Speedo and Under Armour -- is Shaker Aamer, a Saudi nicknamed "the professor" by Guantanamo guards and who is considered a leader among the detainees.

Aamer has been accused by the US of once sharing an apartment with Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and receiving a stipend directly from Osama bin Laden. He denies the allegations and the British government has called for his release.

The other detainee was identified in the letter as Mohammed al-Qareni, accused of being an al-Qaeda fighter in Afghanistan, an allegation he denies.

Stafford Smith previously accused the military of attempting to falsely link him to last year's suicides at Guantanamo, saying at least one of his clients reported being questioned about whether he had any role.

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