SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The Pentagon urged interrogators at Guantanamo Bay to destroy handwritten notes in case they were called to testify about potentially harsh treatment of detainees, a military defense lawyer said Sunday.
The lawyer for Toronto-born Omar Khadr, Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, said the instructions were included in an operations manual shown to him by prosecutors and suggest the U.S. deliberately thwarted evidence that could help terror suspects defend themselves at trial.
Kuebler said the apparent destruction of evidence prevents him from challenging the reliability of any alleged confessions. He said he will use the document to seek a dismissal of charges against Khadr.
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, said he was reviewing the matter Sunday evening.
The “standard operating procedures” manual that contained the purported instructions was made available to Kuebler last week as part of a pretrial review of potential evidence, the Navy lawyer said.
“The mission has legal and political issues that may lead to interrogators being called to testify; keeping the number of documents with interrogation information to a minimum can minimize certain legal issues,” the document is quoted as saying in an affidavit signed by Kuebler.
The document could support challenges by other detainees to suppress confessions at Guantanamo, where the U.S. military says it plans to prosecute as many as 80 of roughly 270 detainees before the first U.S. war-crimes tribunals since World War II.