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Cells monitored for audio, video, Gitmo security chief testifies

February 13, 2013|By Richard A. Serrano
  • In this sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin and reviewed by the U.S. Department of Defense, lawyer David Nevin, right, civilian attorney for the self-proclaimed terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, speaks to Judge Army Col. James Pohl, center, during a recent pretrial hearing.
In this sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin and reviewed by the U.S.… (Janet Hamlin )

FT. MEADE, Md. -- The top security officer at the detainee compound at Guantanamo Bay,  Cuba, testified that prison cells for high-value inmates and a special visitation room include state-of-the-art audio and video monitoring equipment that the FBI secretly installed and then later turned over for use by U.S. intelligence officials.

The testimony by Army Col. John Vincent Bogdan, the military police commander of the prison since June, appeared to bolster concerns by defense attorneys for five alleged Sept. 11 plotters that their confidential meetings have been secretly monitored by outside law enforcement and intelligence agencies, including the FBI and the CIA.

The defense lawyers this week have drawn out other examples of microphones hidden in smoke detectors and prisoner legal mail seized by authorities as they challenge the fairness of the military tribunal process in the case involving alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four others.

Judge James L. Pohl, an Army colonel, has yet to rule on the defense request to “abate” the pretrial hearings because of the allegations of subterfuge, but as testimony wraps up his ruling could come later Wednesday.

Bogdan said that when he was first sent to Cuba to oversee the prison operations, he toured the facility and was surprised to spot two cameras hidden in smoke detectors, as well as panels and microphones, in the maximum security cells inside Echo II, the secret area of the prison set aside for high-value prisoners such as the Sept. 11 defendants. He also saw microphones and cameras in the high-value detainee visiting room used by lawyers, medical staff and the Red Cross.

But, Bogdan said, he was advised that “there was to be no audio monitoring of attorney-client meetings.” He said he tired to make sure that such monitoring was “prohibited” because, he said, that “is a key thing we want to make sure we are not doing.”

But Bogdan said the prohibition is not included in the prison’s official Standards of Procedures, although he said “it is my verbal direction.”

He also said it was “not surprising” the FBI has access to the prison, saying “We have worked closely with them.” He said the FBI “would probably get access” to the facility whenever they requested it, “for whatever it is they need to do.”

Bogdan said the CIA, meanwhile, has also contacted him about access to the prison, but not about “monitoring” activities there.

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Richard.Serrano@latimes.com


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