U.S. Officials Spilled Classified Exhibits during Gitmo Military Court Proceedings

Government (U.S.) // Cuba

Classified information was inadvertently leaked at a Guantanamo military commission hearing for Sept. 11, 2001 defendants and made its way onto computers used by defense lawyers, prosecutors, and the military judge.

Lawyers for Saudi defendant Mustafa Al-Hawsawi disclosed the episode in a submission last month complaining of excessive limitations on classified information in the case.

"On February 23, 2016, counsel for the government emailed the defense [lawyers] advising that certain exhibits the defense used, which the government had turned over in discovery, were in fact classified although they had not been marked as such at the time the government turned them over," al-Hawsawi's attorneys wrote. 

The lawyers said the mishap led to a widespread "scrub" of computer equipment used by a variety of personnel involved with the military commissions.

"As a result of this government determination, the majority of computers of counsel, paralegals and other case personnel in the defense are having to be cleaned (or 'scrubbed'), a process which on average involves each defense team members' computer being unavailable for approximately six hours. On information and belief, the computers of prosecutors, their paralegals and other personnel, as well as the personnel of this commission and the judge, have also undergone this scrub process," the defense filing said.

The information at issue is now classified at the Secret level.

"There was a mix-up with the documents provided by the government. They're trying to go through the process now of getting the information back," Jim Harrington, an attorney for Yemeni Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh, said during an interview. "They always want to have the hard copies back and they want to have the classified information removed from any computers it is on."