Communicating a threat in Supermax; al Qaeda and their lawyers wage jailhouse jihad

President Barack Obama said, “Nobody has ever escaped from one of our federal, supermax prisons, which hold hundreds of convicted terrorists,” during his May 21, 2009 speech at the National Archives.

In this morning’s Washington Post, they report a 2006 Department of Justice memo states that convicted al Qaeda prisoners in Supermax at Florence, Colorado “coordinated the beginning of a hunger strike” and developed “a sophisticated method to resist compulsory feeding” by communicated via “tapping on the pipes.” (Has no one at the Bureau of Prisons ever heard of the Hanoi Hilton and how John McCain et al communicated by tapping on the walls?)

The WaPo stopped short of quoting from footnote 11 on page 13 that, “Ultimately, due to this coordination, the al Qaeda terrorists succeeded in gaining transfer from high security detention.” The DOJ’s memo does not go on to explain if the transfer was temporary or permanent yet there are no reports that al Qaeda detainees were transferred away from Florence. It sounds to me like the BOP, at least temporarily, had to shuffle prisoners around so that the plumbing was not common.

There has always been a waiting list to move dangerous prisoners into Florence’s Supermax yet the number of open beds there has hovered between 26 and 28 (currently 28) the last 3 weeks. Perhaps they are doing some remodeling to both house detainees in a distinct wing and prevent such communications between them once they are there. While that may silence pipeline communications, that will not break the Ratt [sic] line.

In ‘Inside Gitmo,’ Gordon Cucullu writes:

“Attorney Michael Rattner, now representing many of the Guantanamo detainees, prides himself on having “closed Guantanamo” back in the mid-1990s primarily through coaching civil disobedience, particularly hunger striking. It therefore came as no surprise that shortly after attorneys like Rattner began to show up at Guantanamo in 2004, organized hunger strikes began in earnest.”

That same footnote in the DOJ’s 2006 memo also states:

“Al Qaeda detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba similarly staged a coordinated riot in recent weeks that resulted in significant property damage and injury to some of the guards dispatched to put the uprising down. Through communication and planning among detainees, more than 75 al Qaeda detainees staged a coordinated hunger strike, again attempting to undermine the conditions of their confinement. In facilities considerably less structurally secure than the Florence “Supermax” facility, other means of ensuring that detainees are unable to communicate with one another (such as the use of white noise and full-time surveillance) thus become particularly important. These events highlight the overriding need for maintaining tight security — including rigorous controls on detainee communications — at facilities housing terrorist detainees.”

Three of the high-value detainees’ defense lawyers are now under investigation for allegedly showing photographs of CIA interrogators to their clients.

If President Obama is serious that the security of our nation and its people are his first priority, he should keep al Qaeda’s killer locked up at Gitmo as Supermax, Ft Leavenworth, and Standish prison are all insufficient for that purpose. Then he can put up (or shut up) by ordering the communications between detainees and their lawyers be fully monitored to prevent the latter from assisting al Qaeda with waging jailhouse jihad.

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