Government Stupidity at Guantanamo

This is another example of how people look for evidence where they hope to find it. That, of course, is not always a bad thing. But clearly this Lieutenant Colonel could have thought a bit more before drafting his letter to Mr. Smith.

From an August exchange between Lieutenant Colonel Edward M. Bush, an attorney for the Navy, and Clive A. Stafford Smith, a lawyer representing detainees held by the United States at Guanuinamo Bay, Cuba, and the director of the nonprofit organization Reprieve.


Dear Mr. Stafford Smith,

Your client, Shaker Aamer, was recently discovered to be wearing Under Armor briefs and a Speedo bathing suit. Coincidentally, Mohammed el-Gharani, who is represented by Zachary Katznelson of Reprieve, was also recently discovered to be wearing Under Armor briefs. The items were not issued to the detainees by Guantanamo personnel, nor did they enter the camp through regular mail.

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. As I am sure you understand, we cannot tolerate contraband being surreptitiously brought into the camp. Such activities threaten the safety of the staff, the detainees, and visiting counsel.

In furtherance of our investigation, we would like to know whether the contraband material, or any portion thereof, was provided by you or anyone else on your legal team. We are compelled to ask these questions in light of the coincidence that two detainees represented by counsel associated with Reprieve were found wearing the same contraband underwear.

Thank you as always for your cooperation.


Dear Commander,

Thank you very much for your letter, which I received yesterday. I will confess that I have never received such an extraordinary letter in my entire career. Knowing you as I do, I do not attribute this allegation to you personally. Obviously, however, I take accusations that I may have committed a criminal act very seriously. In this case, I hope you understand how patently absurd it is, and how easily it could be disproved by the records in your possession. I also hope you understand my frustration at yet another unfounded accusation against lawyers who are simply trying to do their job-a job that involves legal briefs, not the other sort.

Let me briefly respond: First, neither I, nor Mr. Katznelson, nor anyone else associated with us has had anything to do with smuggling “unmentionables” to these men, nor would we ever do so. Second, the idea that we could smuggle in underwear is far-fetched. As you know, anything we bring in is searched, and there is a camera in the room when we visit the client. Does someone seriously suggest that Mr. Katznelson or I have been stripping off to deliver underwear to our clients?

Third, your own records prove that nobody associated with my office has seen Mr. Aamer for a full year. Thus, it is physically impossible for us to have delivered anything to him that recently surfaced on his person. Surely you do not suggest that in your maximum-security prison, where Mr. Aamer has been held in solitary confinement almost continuously since September 24,2005, and where he has been more closely monitored than virtually any prisoner on the base, your staff have missed the fact that he has been wearing both Speedos and “Under Armor” for twelve months?

It was therefore patently clear that my office had nothing to do with this question of lingerie. However, I am unwilling to allow the issue of underwear to drop there. It seems obvious that the same people delivered these items to both men, and itdoes not take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that members of your staff (either the military or the interrogators) did it. Getting to the bottom of this would help ensure that in future there is no shadow of suspicion cast on the lawyers who are simply trying to do their job, so 1have done a little research to help you in your investigations.

I had never heard of “Under Armor briefs” until you mentioned them, and my Internet research has advanced my knowledge in two ways-first, Under Armour apparently sports a u in its name, which is significant only because it helps with the research. Second, and rather more important, this line of underpants is very popular among the military. One article stated: “A specialty clothing maker is winning over soldiers and cashing in on war. … Founded in 1996, Under Armour makes a line of tops, pants, shorts, underwear and other ‘performance apparel’ designed for a simple purpose: to keep you warm in the cold and cool in the heat.” This stuff is obviously good for the men and women stationed in the sweaty climate of Guantanamo. As one soldier attests, “The only thing that would make them better is if the Army would issue them.”

I don’t mean to say that it is an open-and-shut case proving that your military provided the underwear, as I understand that other people use Under Armour. One group I noticed is amateur weight lifters, who seem confused as to whether Under Armour gave them a competitive advantage. In the grand scheme of things, however, I would like to think we can all agree that interrogators or military officers are more likely to have had access to Messrs. Aamer and el-Gharani than the U.S.A. Powerlifting Collegiate Committee.

On the issue of the Speedo swimming trunks, my research really does not help very much. I cannot imagine who would want to give my client Speedos, or why. Mr. Aamer is hardly in a position to go swimming, since the only available water is in the toilet in his cell. I should say that your letter brought to mind a sign in the changing room of a local swimming pool that showed someone diving into a lavatory and bore the caption, “We don’t swim in your toilet, so please don’t pee in our pool.” I presume that nobody thinks that Mr. Aamer wears Speedos while paddling in his privy.

Please assure me that you are satisfied that neither I nor my colleagues had anything to do with this. In light of the fact that you felt it necessary to question whether we had violated
the rules, I look forward to hearing the conclusion of your investigation.

Yours sincerely,
Clive A. Stafford Smith

Harper’s Magazine, Dec. 2007, p. 25

2 Replies to “Government Stupidity at Guantanamo”

  1. If that’s true, it’s just too bizarre for words!

  2. Hi, my name is disman-kl, i like your site and i ll be back 😉

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