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FBI investigation at Guantanamo Bay winding down; no charges expected

This photo made during an escorted visit and reviewed by the U.S. military, shows the razor wire-topped fence and a watch tower at the abandoned “Camp X-Ray” detention facility at the U.S. Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on April 9, 2014. (Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images)

An FBI inquiry that disrupted criminal proceedings at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and generated fears of government spying is not expected to result in charges, law enforcement officials said.

Investigators said last month that they had opened a preliminary inquiry involving the possible disclosure of classified information at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay. A defense lawyer told the military court that the FBI had questioned a member of a defense team, raising concerns that the probe was interfering with their ability to defend their clients.

Officials said the investigation was opened after the FBI learned that a member of one of the defense teams may have provided information to someone who was not authorized to receive it. The person was not a lawyer or a member of the news media, officials said on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

On April 6, FBI agents looking into the episode questioned Dante James, a security officer who specializes in the handling of classified material and advises the legal team defending Ramzi Binalshibh, one of the five men facing trial in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. After signing a nondisclosure agreement, James notified his employer, SRA International, based in Northern Virginia.

Days later, the 9/11 case at Guantanamo Bay was halted after defense lawyers suggested that the investigation could create a potential conflict of interest if any of the attorneys were targeted.

The FBI declined to comment Monday, as did a spokeswoman for SRA.

Officials said the FBI was looking into whether the agents acted properly. James Harrington, Binalshibh’s attorney, said the investigation had a chilling effect on relations between detainees and their attorneys and that the attorneys are owed an explanation.

In late April, the government requested additional time to provide the military court at Guantanamo Bay with information about the FBI’s preliminary investigation and to analyze the complaint from the defense team. With the likelihood that the inquiry will end soon, one U.S. official said the onus will be on Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, the chief military prosecutor, to convince the court that the FBI investigation didn’t do any lasting harm and that the trial can continue.

The proceedings have been delayed repeatedly. Martins had hoped to begin jury selection in the case of Binalshibh and the other alleged Sept. 11 co-conspirators in January 2015. Defense lawyers say it’s unlikely that the trial will open by then.

The FBI has investigated other legal teams working for Guantanamo Bay detainees in the past. In 2009, U.S. authorities began an inquiry to learn how the pictures of CIA officials ended up in cells of high-value detainees several years ago. No charges were filed in that case.

Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Adam Goldman reports on terrorism and national security for The Washington Post.



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