D.C. Circuit Allows Groin Searches at Guantanamo
(CN) - Guantanamo protocols allowing prison guards to place their hands as a "wedge between the scrotum and thigh" of prisoners to look for contraband are permissable, the D.C. Circuit ruled unanimously on Friday.
In May 2013, the U.S. government revised search procedures for prisoners that allowed guards to use a "flat hand to press against the groin to detect anything foreign attached to the body" and ensure that "no contraband is hidden between the buttocks."
The military justified its policy on "security concerns" following "the suicide of a detainee who took an overdose of medication that he had smuggled into his cell and the discovery of shanks, a wrench, and other weapons in the housing camps that had evaded the searches," the appellate court opinion summarized.
Lawyers for the detainees challenging the policy called it a pretext to discourage them from exercising their right to counsel.
Finding the accusation credible, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ordered the military to stop the practice in July 2013.
A three-judge panel reviewing his decision found on Friday that Lamberth had "tenuous" evidence to support his conclusion.
"Although we must not give prison administrators a free hand to disregard fundamental rights, this case is a far cry from instances where administrators have acknowledged their intent to extinguish prisoner rights and acted accordingly," U.S. Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith wrote for the panel. "The tenuous evidence of an improper motive to obstruct access to counsel in this case cannot overcome the legitimate, rational connection between the security needs of Guantanamo Bay and thorough searches of detainees."
Griffith, who was appointed by George W. Bush, added that the judges had "no trouble" finding that the guards had rational security concerns "in no small part because that is the government's view of the matter."
Judges Merrick Garland, a Bill Clinton appointee, and Karen Henderson, a George H.W. Bush appointee, joined the 11-page opinion.
Lamberth "required proof" that the old protocols were ineffective and that the detainee killed himself by smuggling drugs, according to the opinion.
But the burden is on the prisoner to disprove the validity of the policy, the judges found.
Attorney David Remes, who represents the detainees, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.