The other day, I received the following email from Army Colonel Scott Malcom of United States Southern Command concerning an exchange of letters between the president of the American Bar Association and the Commander of Southern Command over Guantanamo attorney-client communications in military commission cases. Col. Malcom also sent along the letters themselves, which I have embedded into his letter (which is slightly edited, accordingly) as links. He writes:
Just wanted to shed some light on the exchange described in the subject line. I arranged it chronologically and described the attachments below in hopes that your having access to the entirety of the information contained herein will provide you a clear picture of recent events at GTMO concerning written communications between Attorneys and their clients:
On December 21, 2011, Mr. Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III, President of the American Bar Association, sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, expressing concern about reports from lawyers for detainees at Joint Task Force-Guantanamo Bay (JTF-GTMO). The detainee’s lawyers alleged that a policy at Guantanamo Bay appeared to “violate both the letter and spirit of the attorney-client privilege.” Mr. Robinson’s letter was forwarded to General Douglas M. Fraser, Commander of the United States Southern Command. . . .
General Fraser welcomed the opportunity to set the record straight on the unfounded allegations and responded to Mr. Robinson on February 3, 2012. . . . There are eight enclosures to that letter and they are also attached [Enclosure #1: Buzby Memo, Enclosure #2: May 2008 Defense Request for a Privilege Team, Enclosure #3: October 2009 Request for Privilege Team, Enclosure #4: Nov 2011 Final Priviledged Communications Screening Procedures, Enclosure #5: Order Governing Written Communications, Enclosure #6-1: ISN 10011 Govt Opposition to Motion for Preliminary Injunction, Enclosure #6-2: Surrreply Regarding Motion for Preliminary Injunction, Enclosure #7: Order Denying Preliminary Injunction, Enclosure #8: Mandamus Opposition Filed].
On February 16, 2012, Mr. Robinson replied to General Fraser’s letter thanking him for the detailed information in his letter and indicating that it resolved their concerns. . . .
Colonel Scott Malcom
United States Army
Chief of Public Affairs
United States Southern Command
I’m not as certain as is Col. Malcom that the final ABA letter should be read as saying the organization’s concerns are “resolved.” What Robinson said, to be precise, was that “We appreciate the efforts of the JTF-GTMO Commander to resolve our concerns and look forward to additional updates regarding this matter.” But the exchange of letters is interesting and worth reading nonetheless.