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Guantanamo video device watches, but doesn't listen to privileged conversations

By Mike Mount and Larry Shaughnessy, CNN
March 21, 2013 -- Updated 1208 GMT (2008 HKT)
President Barack Obama signed an executive order on January 22, 2009, to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within a year. Five years later, the prison for terrorism suspects remains open, with 136 detainees (as of December 2014). Click through for a look inside the <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/11/opinion/warren-guantanamo-bay/index.html'>controversial facility</a>. Here, President George W. Bush's official picture is replaced by Obama's in the lobby of the headquarters of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo on January 20, 2009, the day the latter was sworn in as president. President Barack Obama signed an executive order on January 22, 2009, to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within a year. Five years later, the prison for terrorism suspects remains open, with 136 detainees (as of December 2014). Click through for a look inside the controversial facility. Here, President George W. Bush's official picture is replaced by Obama's in the lobby of the headquarters of the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo on January 20, 2009, the day the latter was sworn in as president.
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Inside Guantanamo Bay
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Photos: Inside Guantanamo Bay
Inside Guantanamo Bay
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Photos: Inside Guantanamo Bay
Inside Guantanamo Bay
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The device baffled defense lawyers at Guantanamo
  • Military lawyer says no one was listening to privileged conversations
  • A top U.S. commander says the device is used to watch what happens, but not listen

(CNN) -- A photo of a listening device in a room where attorneys met with terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay caused a stir this month, but a senior military official says it is a relic from the days when interrogations occurred in the facility.

A military judge hearing the case against the September 11, 2001, terror mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others ordered the photo released earlier this month.

The device baffled defense lawyers who speak with their Guantanamo clients in the room where the device, which looks like a smoke detector, was hanging.

This device is in a room where attorneys met with terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
This device is in a room where attorneys met with terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

One of the top military lawyers for the Gitmo detention facility said he looked into the matter and found no one was listening in on privileged conversations, The Miami Herald reported.

A top U.S. commander, who oversees the detention camp and U.S. military operations in the base in southeast Cuba, confirmed the device is not being used to listen into attorney-client conversations. But a video camera in the units watches the conversations.

"Years ago, that particular facility was used for another purpose, and that purpose required not only audio devices, but visual devices," Gen. John Kelly, commander of the U.S. southern command, told a Senate panel.

"It was not used for attorney-client rooms. The mission down there has morphed over time, so the room that they were using for attorney-client discussions still had equipment. But that equipment was not energized, it was not used and I can tell you that without question, we have not violated their rights by listening in," Kelly said Wednesday.

He said the audio portions of the devices were removed this week, but the video part of the mechanism will remain.

"Some of these men, arguably are dangerous," Kelly said in response to a question of why the video cameras would remain.

"And although you would think that their defense attorneys would be safe, I have a responsibility to protect the defense attorneys, as well, as I do the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) that visits and the 5,700 non-DOD people that have visited Guantanamo since the beginning," he said.

"They weren't listened to. Yes, the video devices will remain -- temporarily, at least, and the attorneys will understand that," he told the Senate panel inquiring about the devices.

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