September 15, 2007 in Nation/World

Military looks for source of Guantanamo underwear

Ben Fox Associated Press
 

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Guards at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp found two prisoners sporting unauthorized underwear, and the U.S. military is investigating to determine how they got the contraband.

Both prisoners were caught wearing Under Armour briefs and one also had on a Speedo bathing suit, items the military said were not issued by Guantanamo personnel or sent through the regular mail, according to a Defense Department letter obtained Friday by the Associated Press.

Army Lt. Col. Ed Bush, a spokesman at the jail holding about 340 men on suspicion of terrorism or links to al-Qaida and the Taliban, said more was involved than just an uproar over skivvies.

He said the appearance of contraband raised serious concerns about the potential for smuggling other items that could be used by detainees to harm themselves or staff.

“There is no room for error when working in a dangerous environment, and constant vigilance is of the utmost importance,” Bush said.

Detainees are given cotton briefs similar to those issued to U.S. soldiers in basic training, he said.

The letter, sent last month by the Office of the Navy Judge Advocate General to a lawyer for one of the prisoners involved, noted both detainees are represented by the British human rights group Reprieve and suggested attorneys might have “surreptitiously” provided the garments.

“We are investigating this matter to determine the origins of the above contraband and ensure that parties who may have been involved understand the seriousness of this transgression,” said the letter, which was provided to AP by one of the attorneys, Clive Stafford Smith.

Stafford Smith called the suggestion that he or the other lawyer, Zachary Katznelson, smuggled underwear to prisoners “patently absurd.”

“Neither I, nor Mr. Katznelson, nor anyone else associated with us has had anything to do with smuggling ‘unmentionables’ in to these men, nor would we ever do so,” he wrote in response the letter.

Stafford Smith noted lawyers are searched when they enter the detention center, and a camera monitors them while they visit clients.

“The idea that we could smuggle in underwear is farfetched,” he wrote in his reply.

He said Under Armour briefs are popular with members of the military and suggested investigators check to see if the offending underwear was purchased at the U.S. Navy base where the prison is housed.

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