[Pnews] My Guantánamo client’s interpreter worked for the CIA

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Feb 13 16:54:13 EST 2015

*My Gitmo client’s interpreter worked for the CIA



*Latest embarrassing incident demonstrates that military tribunals 
cannot mete out justice to detainees*

February 13, 2015

by Ramzi Kassem

On Monday, I learned that the interpreter who has been working for a 
long time as part of the legal defense team that I lead on a military 
commission case at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba was 
identified as a former Central Intelligence Agency black site worker by 
four of the five defendants who stand accused in connection with the 
9/11 attacks.

I have represented Ahmed al-Darbi, a Saudi prisoner at Guantánamo, since 
2008 on a volunteer basis, in collaboration with a number of military 
lawyers, detailed by their command at the Office of Military 
Commissions. The interpreter in question sat through a trial and other 
proceedings by our side as well as countless privileged and confidential 
attorney-client meetings. I thanked him by name for his efforts in a 
statement I released after the trial.

In the wake of a recess in the case on Monday, the U.S. government 
confirmed the next day that the linguist did work for the CIA, without 
commenting on whether he was assigned to any black sites.

Of course, my military co-counsel and I did our due diligence prior to 
retaining the interpreter from a list of linguists provided by a 
contractor working for the Department of Defense. His resume did not 
reflect any CIA ties, and we vetted him ourselves, delving into any work 
he may have done relating to prisoners at Guantánamo and beyond. At no 
time did he ever share with me that he had any connection with the CIA 
or its rendition, detention and interrogation program.

I may never ascertain whether our interpreter worked at a black site 
and, importantly, if he was still reporting in some covert capacity to 
the CIA while he served on our defense team. The implications of this 
revelation remain nonetheless staggering.

This revelation should undercut any trust the public retains in the 
integrity of the military commissions system at Guantánamo.

The most immediate consequence is that our client’s trust in his legal 
team will be severely shaken. Just last week I met with Darbi at 
Guantánamo. This time I saw him alone, but in January members of our 
legal team who spoke with our client were accompanied by the interpreter 
in question. If the interpreter who our team brought in a few weeks ago 
and for years prior worked for the CIA, our client may reasonably ask, 
was he still working for that agency while he sat through our supposedly 
privileged meetings? And he will inevitably wonder if we were complicit 
in that dissimulation and if we, too, are not who we said we were.

For our part, we have formally requested assurances from the chief 
prosecutor for the military commissions, Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, our 
main U.S. government interlocutor in the Darbi case. While we recognize 
that it may be challenging for him to obtain a meaningful response from 
the CIA, as defense lawyers, we are ethically obligated to ask him 
whether, from the time our interpreter was assigned to the Darbi defense 
team to the present day, was also working with the CIA or any other 
agency in the U.S. intelligence community in any capacity, covert or 
otherwise. We still await a response.


Ahmed al-DarbiAP

Not only has this revelation undermined our client’s faith in his 
attorneys, but it should also undercut any trust the public retains in 
the integrity of the military commission system at Guantánamo. The 
post-9/11 universe of facilities and practices, including Guantánamo, 
was constructed to produce intelligence and perhaps to exact retribution 
but not to yield formal justice. The imperatives and mechanics of 
justice and intelligence gathering are, to a significant extent, 
incompatible. Nowhere is that contradiction sharper than at Guantánamo, 
where those two worlds collide.

This incident is only the latest in a succession of embarrassing events 
that have brought military commission proceedings in high profile cases 
at Guantánamo to a screeching halt. These include the discovery of 
eavesdropping devices implanted in smoke detectors in legal meeting 
rooms, a secret FBI attempt to turn one member of a legal defense team 
into an informant and the unsuspected ability of the CIA to censor court 
proceedings, unbeknown to the presiding military judge and the prosecution.

These incidents form part of a mosaic reflecting the culture of 
Guantánamo and its military commissions. The overall picture shows that 
this is not a system that can be salvaged and repurposed to perform the 
delicate work of meting out justice.

It is high time to admit that the makeshift, parallel trial system 
erected at Guantánamo simply doesn’t function and certainly won’t result 
in justice being served. It should be scrapped, and the government 
should revert to the regularly constituted civilian justice system, 
which, albeit deeply flawed, at least affords participants greater 
measures of fairness and accountability.

Ramzi Kassem is a professor at the City University of New York School of 
Law. He directs the Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic, which 
represents prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not 
necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America's editorial policy.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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