Lawyers representing Gitmo detainees have long faced Pentagon-imposed obstacles to their work. Now, some of the lawyers are being stymied by a new issue: The military isn't giving the lawyers' translators clearance to visit Gitmo.
"The translators who have had their security clearances canceled," says Candace Gorman, a Chicago-based lawyer who represents some detainees and who wrote a post on her blog last week about the troubles the translators are facing. "These are people who've been going to the base for years. Ostensibly, it is because the translators received their original clearances through a private company, which they are no longer working for. But that has been true for years." Gorman explained that there are four Arabic translators who work with the lawyers, three of whom have had trouble recently getting into Gitmo because their security clearances are under review.
I contacted the Pentagon yesterday--and again today--to help us understand what's going on. We've yet to hear back.
Lawyers trying to get new translators cleared have also run into delays.
Brent Mickum signed on to represent al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah this past December and has been trying for the past three months to get his translator cleared. "I inquired about the translator in February. We're really in a box. We can't get anything translated," Mickum told me. "Don't get me wrong. I think these clearances do take time, but the government has to commit the resources to get them done in a timely fashion. We can't represent our client adequately otherwise."
If the Pentagon wants to speed up the vetting process for Mickum's translator, they might want to contact the Departments of State, Treasury or Justice. According to the translator's resume, which Mickum provided us, he has worked for each one of them.
We'll keep buzzing the Pentagon and let you know as soon as they respond. In the meantime, if you're a Gitmo lawyer and have had any similar troubles, drop us a line.