Buffalo lawyer treks to Guantanamo Bay each month

May 21, 2013

Each month, local criminal defense lawyer James Harrington travels on a long flight to Guantanamo Bay too meet with his client. Harrington meets at a military prison housing the tribunals handling alleged terrorism cases. WBFO's Mike Desmond sat down with the Buffalo attorney for an interview about his work.

Harrington is one of a team of lawyers, military and civilian representing a high-value prisoner, Ramzi Bin Alshibh.

"I was asked to do it  it was a decision I thought hard about and discussed with my family, and decided it was the right thing to do," said Harrington.

The Defense Department says Alshibh was the coordinator of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.  He was arrested a year later and held somewhere Harrington can't talk about and tortured before being sent to Guantanamo four years later.

Alshibh faces a death penalty and that's why the local lawyer was brought in to defend him. During New York State's brief period of having a death penalty, Alshibh was death-qualified.

Harrington says the Supreme Court will eventually have to look at the torture.

"Even the Chicago incident that you referenced in terms of what homicide detectives might have done to people in Chicago is nothing compared to what has happened here. Whether that's enough to warrant the loss of the legal or moral authority of the government to proceed is a question that will have to be answered...ultimately...by the Supreme Court," said Harrington.

Harrington says it's very difficult to be a defense lawyer when the rules change over time and when the government is probably listening to conversations with his client and is certainly monitoring defense lawyer communications.