Fri Jun 11, 6:41 AM ET
Military and civilian employees at the U.S. prison for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were warned recently not to talk with attorneys who represent detainees held there, according to a document prepared by the legal office of the Army-led task force that runs the facility.
The document, obtained by USA TODAY, says that soldiers and interrogators are not required to give defense attorneys statements about the "personal treatment of detainees" or any "failure to report actions of others." It also says that refusing to cooperate with defense attorneys "will not impact your career."
The warning - titled "Interaction with Defense Counsel" - has surfaced at a time when the treatment of the nearly 600 detainees at Guantanamo is under scrutiny because of the abuse and sexual humiliation of Iraqis in U.S. custody at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, former commander at Guantanamo, went to Iraq last year to share interrogation techniques used in Cuba.
A Defense Department spokesman said the document was aimed at ensuring that Guantanamo employees "know what their rights are." The spokesman said the references to detainee treatment are "relevant examples that make such training better."
Military law analysts and human rights advocates agree that Guantanamo employees should be advised against making incriminating statements. But they say the advice should be neutral.
The document "suggests that there is something that needs to be hidden" about how detainees are being treated, says Scott Silliman, a Duke University law professor and a former Air Force lawyer. "It suggests that the default should be: Don't talk."
Gary Solis, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, says he gave similar advice to witnesses when he was a military prosecutor. "There's no impropriety," says Solis, who teaches law at Georgetown University. But "the context of this advice gives the appearance of encouraging (people) to be less than forthcoming."
The Pentagon has been secretive about interrogation tactics at Guantanamo, where suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives have been held for more than two years.
President Bush has designated six Guantanamo detainees for trial by military tribunal. Four have been assigned military defense lawyers, who want to question interrogators, soldiers and other detainees. The lawyers want to explore whether evidence against their clients was gathered through abusive tactics. Three of the six detainees have been charged.