Earlier this month investigators probing the suicides disclosed they had seized 1,100 pounds of attorney-client-privilege material — all of the legal documents in the possession of detainees being held as enemy combatants. The move was part of an investigation into whether outsiders, possibly lawyers, were involved in a larger suicide plot.
Government investigators say notes found during their search indicated that detainees “had developed practices for misusing the existence of a privileged attorney-client communication system,” which raised questions of “whether a coordinated plan existed for suicides involving the encouragement, assistance or direction of other detainees or individuals,” according to a July 7 filing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Now the government wants to create a special “filter team” of Pentagon officials and translators to scour thousands of privileged records for any sign of foul play.
Although the Justice Department’s brief doesn’t say lawyers were knowingly involved in passing information between detainees, public statements by government officials have pointed the finger at the prisoners’ counsel. “We find it curious that habeas attorneys may have been involved in the deaths,” says Jeffrey Gordon, a Defense Department spokesman.