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USS Cole bombing: Judge denies lawyers' bid to meet with unchained client

Lawyers for the alleged USS Cole bombing mastermind say the security restrictions at the Guantanamo Bay terror detention camp are hindering their ability to prepare his defense.

By Staff writer / January 17, 2012

The port side damage to the guided missile destroyer USS Cole is pictured on October 12, 2000. The defense lawyers in the case want to meet with their defendant unchained and without new restrictions, but the judge denied the changes to attorney-client communications in Guantanamo Bay.

Aladin Abdel Naby/Reuters/File

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Fort Meade, Md.

Lawyers representing the alleged mastermind of the 2000 USS Cole bombing in Yemen lost a bid Tuesday to be allowed to meet with their client face-to-face and unrestrained by chains.

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The lawyers complained that tough security restrictions at the terror detention camp at Guantanamo Bay were hindering their ability to work closely with Abdal Rahim Al-Nashiri in preparing his defense against the capital murder and terror conspiracy charges filed against him.

Their request was denied on the first of two days of pre-trial motions in the military commission trial at the US naval base in southeast Cuba. A live video stream of the proceedings is being broadcast to members of the press at Fort Meade.

In a full day of motions, military prosecutors and defense lawyers sparred over controversial plans by Guantanamo officials to monitor attorney-client communications as well as potentially the defense attorneys’ computers and emails.

The commander of the joint task force that runs the detention camp, Rear Adm. David Woods, defended an order he issued last month establishing new procedures for defense counsel to submit attorney-client communications to military officials for clearance before they would be forwarded on to their client.

The admiral said the procedure was designed to prevent transmission of any information that might pose a security threat, such as a map of the facility. But defense lawyers complain that the monitoring could violate the attorney-client privilege.

Admiral Woods testified that the team reviewing the communications is comprised of civilian contractors hired by the Defense Intelligence Agency and includes former intelligence officials.

Asked whether the contractors could divulge any information from the reviews to an outside source, Woods said he didn’t know. “The contract is a [Department of Defense] contract and I am not familiar with all the terms,” he said.

The judge is set to hear more argument on Wednesday on the attorney-client privilege issue, as well as key matters concerning how classified evidence will be summarized and eventually presented to a jury in a military tribunal.

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