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Indianapolis attorney ordered back to Guantanamo Bay

October 25, 2017

Indianapolis attorney Richard Kammen, the lead defense attorney who represented the accused mastermind behind the bombing of the USS Cole, is being ordered to return to Guantanamo Bay after he and his co-counsel withdrew from the case over ethical concerns.

Since 2008, Kammen, of Kammen and Moudy, has been representing Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who has been held as a prisoner of the United States since 2002. The attorney has shuttled back and forth to Guantanamo Bay for hearings and made trips to Washington, D.C., to review the classified documents related to the case.

However in mid-October, Kammen and his team quit after determining it was not ethical for them to continue representing al-Nashiri. The exact reason for the withdrawal is murky because much of the information has been deemed classified, but it appears to be related to the government listening to private conversations between the defendants and their attorneys.

Previously, microphones had been hidden in smoke detectors placed in the rooms where the lawyers and their clients met. Although the government had since offered assurances it was no longer eavesdropping, the defense discovered information that contradicted those promises.

An outside ethics expert consulted by Kammen and his team concurred they could not continue representing al-Nashiri. Also, in a separate review, Marine Brig. Gen. John Baker, chief defense counsel for the military commission defense organization, agreed the ethical situation required the civilian defense team be disbanded.

“I’m neither confirming nor denying anything about the al-Nashiri case other than what the chief defense counsel told us, that the government’s assurance was contradicted,” Kammen said.

Last week, the judge in the al-Nashiri case, Air Force Col. Vance Spath, stepped in. According to the Miami Herald, Spath did not find cause for the defense attorneys to quit and has ordered them to appear for a hearing at Guantanamo Bay next week.

Kammen had anticipated the military judge might order the defense team back to Guantanamo Bay. Currently, he is conferring with his co-counsel and the chief defense counsel to determine their next step.

After defending al-Nashiri for so long, Kammen struggled to describe his feelings at having to step down. Because much of the information surrounding the circumstances are classified, none of the defense attorneys could meet with al-Nashiri or tell him why they could no longer represent him.

Kammen said he came to like al-Nashiri and he did want to see the case through to the end. But, he noted the situation came to a point where he felt he was enabling a system that is unethical, so he quit.   

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