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FBI investigation of spying fears at Gitmo winds down; no charges expected

| Monday, May 12, 2014, 6:03 p.m.

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 investigation involving the possible disclosure of classified information at the military prison.

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 when 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 9/11 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 when defense lawyers suggested that the investigation could establish a potential conflict of interest if any of the attorneys were targeted.

The FBI declined to comment on 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 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 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 lasting harm and that the trial can continue.

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