Guantanamo Bay prison watch tower (US Government Photo by National Guard)

A federal court has restored Guantanamo Bay prison guards’ authority to conduct genital searches on Guantanamo Bay prisoners, according to the Miami Herald.

The Justice Department asked a federal court to stay an order that restricted prison guards at the Guantanamo Bay prison from conducting genital searches of prisoners before they met with their counsel or had phone calls with their counsel.

The filed motion read, “For the first time to the Government’s knowledge, a federal court has restricted a military commander from implementing routine security procedures at a detention facility holding enemy forces, notwithstanding the universally recognized need for the maintenance of discipline and order in those facilities. Indeed, similar or more invasive procedures are used for pretrial detainees held in civilian facilities in the United States.”

“The Court has done so despite uncontroverted evidence of fashioned weapons and other contraband being found in the facility, thus creating the need for more, not less, security.”

Last week, a federal judge, Judge Royce Lamberth, issued a ruling and order requiring the government to use a “modified search procedure” that had been used soldiers at the facility instead of a much more invasive procedure. That “modified” procedure was “shaking the detainee’s waistband.”

Lamberth concluded “searching the genitals” of prisoners “up to four times for every phone call or attorney–client meeting” was “excessive.”

“Searching detainees up to four times in this manner for every movement, meeting, or phone call belies any legitimate interest in security given the clear and predictable effects of the new searches,” he stated in his ruling. Plus, “Nothing in the record indicates that detainees have received any contraband from their attorneys or that detainees have attempted to pass contraband to each other during phone calls or meetings with attorneys. The motivation for the searches is not to enhance security but to deter counsel access.”

Furthermore, Lamberth found genital searches “actively discourage” prisoners from “taking phone calls or meeting with counsel.” He noted that attorneys for the prisoners had argued, “The choice between submitting to a search procedure that is religiously and culturally abhorrent or foregoing counsel effectively presents no choice for devout Muslims like petitioners.”

“The relationship between the searches and petitioners’ choices to refuse phone calls and counsel meetings is clear and predictable,” Lamberth added. “Indeed, petitioners also find searches of the Quran abhorrent, and many petitioners have chosen to forego having a Quran in their cells rather than having their Qurans subject to search.”

Apparently, none of what Lamberth concluded was reasonable. The Justice Department’s motion believed the court has no right to challenge the prison’s authority. It also blames the prisoners for any anxiety, humiliation or trauma they may have experienced because they cannot meet with counsel or talk to their counsel without having their genitals searched.

“Any lack of counsel access they have experienced is the result of their own refusal to meet or speak with their counsel, decisions they cannot blame on the Government,” according to the government’s motion. And, “Detainees cannot unilaterally transform ordinary conditions-of-confinement complaints into counsel-access claims merely by refusing to meet with their counsel as a form of protest against conditions not to their liking.”

What was even more crude is how it described prisoners’ ability to conceal “contraband.” The motion contended that with the “modified search procedure” officials at Guantanamo would not be able to search a detainee’s “groin area” if they “know or suspect a detainee is concealing contraband.”

The motion suggested that detainees can smuggle “weapons or weaponizable items” because of Lamberth’s decision and that presents a potential threat to guards and persons with whom detainees may be visiting. These items can also be used to assist prisoners in committing suicide.

It referenced a declaration by US Southern Command commander, Marine Gen. John Kelly, in which he suggested:

…The current full-body frisk procedure is necessary and appropriate for moves outside a detainee’s camp of residence and for all contacts with non-JTF-GTMO personnel. Sometimes during a detainee move (including moves for attorney visits, telephone calls, medical appointments or ICRC visits), contraband items (such as tempered steel, wires and nails) can be found on the ground where they can be picked up by or given to the detainee. These contraband items, if obtained by a detainee, can be hidden on his person. Concealment is made particularly easy if the detainee knows that his groin area cannot be thoroughly frisked…

Another part of the motion maintained, “‘Grasping the waistband’ and ‘shaking the lag’ of a detainee’s trousers will not reveal any dangerous contraband items, like nails, shanks and ragged scraps of metals that are secreted in the groin area.”

Now, as a male, I will interject: if a waistband is not being used, I am not sure where exactly the government thinks this steel, wires, nails, shanks or ragged scraps of metal are going to be put by prisoners for use at a later time. Does the government think a prisoner is going to coil metal around his penis? Where are these nails, shanks or ragged scraps to be lodged so they don’t fall out of the prisoners’ pants while walking? It all seems so perverse and I would submit that those running this prison have probably spent more time thinking about this than any decent human being should.

More importantly, why are these materials so loosely available on prison grounds? If the presence of these materials are such a potential security hazard, shouldn’t it be some soldiers’ job to regularly survey the area and pick up materials so they can’t be picked up?

The government’s motion also contained a threat to the entire population of Guantanamo—that because they won more rights in the courts guards may start to conduct “more frequent full-frisk searches of the entire population.” If the judge did not want this to happen, he should restore the guards’ power to search prisoners’ groins.

Why is this even an issue? Because President Barack Obama, thus far, has not closed Guantanamo Bay prison and transferred prisoners back to countries where they should be (particularly the 86 prisoners cleared for transfer by his own authorized review task force).

Officials at Guantanamo have been continually subverting attorney-client privilege in violation of prisoners’ due process rights.

Over 100 prisoners have been on hunger strike for months (though because of Ramadan, the military now puts the number of hunger striking prisoners at 78). And, according to a chart by the Miami Herald, 46 are being force-fed by a tube that is shoved down their nose when they’re restrained in a chair.

The prisoners are actively resisting their indefinite detention and the conditions of their confinement because they believed President Obama would close the facility as he promised. Guantanamo prison officials are trying to break the hunger strike and have been trying to do so all along because commanders perceive hunger striking as an attack on the US government.

Lamberth appropriately ruled “the search procedures discourage meetings with counsel and so stand in stark contrast to the President’s insistence on judicial review for every detainee.” He refused to let the prisoners’ jailers get in the way of access to counsel. And that the Obama administration is seeking to permanently restore the ability to continue to violate prisoners at Guantanamo with genital searches is but another example of how government has consistently dehumanized human beings, many of which the government has no evidence to put on trial.