The CIA security concerns triggered a dispute last week with Justice Department lawyers sympathetic to the John Adams Project.
A senior Justice Department official has recused himself from the investigation as a result of the dispute, and Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney in Chicago who prosecuted a case involving the unauthorized disclosure of a CIA officer’s identity, was brought into the probe after the recent discovery of CIA officers’ photos at the Cuban prison.
One official opposed to giving the detainees the laptops said it was a mistake because the legal precedent opens the way for lawyers to appeal in court for the detainees to be granted Internet access - a concern shared by outside analysts.
“It is a slippery slope,” said Tom Joscelyn, a specialist on detainees with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. “It is basically moving the ball inch by inch. This is one more thing that we are giving to them, and there is really no good reason that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed deserves a laptop.”
Air Force Gen. Douglas M. Fraser, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, was asked about security at the prison, which is in his area of operations, during a Capitol Hill hearing on Thursday.
“If a counselor wants to visit a detainee in Guantanamo, there is a very specific location where they meet,” Gen. Fraser told the House Armed Services Committee under questioning from Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, California Republican and the panel’s ranking member.
“They’re able to meet there. We monitor it visually, either with someone watching or someone watching on a videotape, but no audio associated with that, and that’s primarily for security that we continue to watch visually,” he said.
Any messages left by lawyers for detainees are reviewed by a legal team, he said, though the general added that attorney-client privilege prevents the review of other communications. “No one at [Joint Task Force] Guantanamo monitors any of the conversations between counsel and the detainees,” he said.
Asked whether attorneys for detainees provided them with information on military operations, intelligence, arrests, political news and the names of U.S. government personnel, Gen. Fraser said he was aware of a “couple of instances” when information was passed to lawyers on plans for moving detainees.
Other security concerns at the prison are sent to the Pentagon, and “we, in turn, turn that over to the Department of Justice,” Gen. Fraser said.
In a related development on Thursday, Mr. McKeon wrote to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to ask whether detainee operations in Cuba were “compromised” by the John Adams Program.
In the March 18 letter obtained by The Washington Times, Mr. McKeon renewed his concerns that “the department’s detainee operations have been - and may continue to be - compromised” by the John Adams Project.
“Of greater concern is that the John Adams Project may have put military and U.S. government personnel at risk,” Mr. McKeon stated.
He asked for an immediate response to a request made in September for a committee briefing on the project and called “unacceptable” the Pentagon’s failure to respond to a request made in January.
In the Senate, Sen. Christopher S. Bond, Missouri Republican and vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also expressed concerns about Guantanamo detainees learning the identities of covert CIA interrogators.