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Disappearing legal files lead to computer ban for Pentagon defense lawyers

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A series of mysterious and troubling computer breaches at the Pentagon has led to an order for military and civilian defense lawyers to cease use of their computers when working with sensitive information, reports Reuters. The order came last night following the gradual disappearance of three or four weeks worth of confidential documents, as well as the discovery that 500,000 legal files of varying sensitivity were made accessible to parties not authorized to view them. It's unclear why these events have occurred, but they've all revolved around the legal proceedings of inmates being held at Guantanamo Bay, some of whose cases were about to begin pretrial hearings.

Both the prosecution and defense now want these hearings postponed until this issue can be resolved. Reuters reports that the incidents all involved the defense attorneys' files, many of which are protected by attorney-client privilege. The disappearances began in February, and evidence has been discovered suggesting that third parties had monitored the defense's emails and internet searches. The impact of these security breaches remains to be seen, but there's currently no indication of wrongdoing on the prosecution's part.

There are signs that the defense was monitored

However, Guantanamo's handling of the inappropriate file access has only raised further issues. Reuters reports that the detention camp's legal advisor noted that hidden microphones had been present during private discussions between inmates and their lawyers, but that the conversations — which would be protected by attorney-client privilege — were not monitored. It's not clear what the further developments around the defense's privacy will mean for the inmates' legal proceedings, but one hearing has already been pushed back two months, into June.