Gitmo Lawyer Julia Tarver Mason: Aiding, Abetting … and Not Talking
Richard Pollock tries to interview Mason, but a mystery man in a giant SUV nudges him off her trail. Literally.
March 16, 2010 - 1:16 pm
Yesterday morning, I had an encounter on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. with Julia Tarver Mason — a lawyer who represents several accused terrorists.
I found that Ms. Mason is more willing to speak with terrorists than reporters.
My interest in Ms. Mason began two nights ago, when I read the investigative piece by Debra Burlingame and Thomas Joscelyn in the Wall Street Journal regarding 400 American lawyers from high priced law firms who have “volunteered” their time to personally wage “lawfare” on behalf of enemy combatants held at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. One of the premier firms involved is Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, which boasted in 2007: “Paul, Weiss achieves more victories for Guantanamo detainees.” Ms. Julia Tarver Mason is a partner in the firm.
In 2006, Mason was banned from Guantanamo Bay by the base commander and the U.S. Department of Justice for secretly passing on anti-American propaganda and operational detention details to her “client.”
This client was Majeed Abdullah Al Joudi. Al Joudi, a Saudi member of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, was captured in Afghanistan in 2001. In 2004, it was disclosed at his combat status review tribunal that he was “was captured with al-Qaeda surveillance evasion reports and after-action reports.”
The anti-American propaganda Mason secretly passed on to Mr. Al Joudi was a slick, inflammatory 18-page color brochure — written entirely in Arabic — that slammed American detention policy as “that of anti-Arab, anti-Islamic, and other racist abuse.” It was filled with pictures of masked, bound, and kneeling prisoners, and according to the Wall Street Journal, “included pictures of what appeared to be detainee operations in Iraq.”
Ms. Mason had been secretly sending incendiary materials to her client through a system called “legal mail,” which is supposed to be strictly legal correspondence between a lawyer and the enemy combatant. According to Burlingame and Joscelyn, a 2004 protective order by federal Judge Joyce Hens Green forbids the lawyers to give out any information on political news, current events, or the names of U.S. government personnel.
Ms. Mason and her other Paul, Weiss lawyers were banned by Major General Jay W. Hood, then commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo. General Hood said — in a sworn affidavit submitted to the D.C. District Court, obtained by Burlingame and Joscelyn under the Freedom of Information Act — that the pamphlet aided and abetted the terrorists there:
The very nature of this document gives tremendous moral support to those who would strike out against our country.
It is not a factual report.
[Photos] were staged, inflammatory photos from Iraq [with] provocative story captions.
In 2005, there were two widespread hunger strikes at Guantanamo Bay. It appears Mason played a major role in them. According to Burlingame and Joscelyn:
Ms. Mason herself inflamed tensions with the hunger strikers during a visit to Guantanamo in October 2005. She told one of the detainees, Yousef Al Sherhri, that the U.S. Government had no court authority to feed him using a nasal tube, according to Justice Department documents. As a result Al Sherhri pulled out his feeding tube, persuaded detainees in his cell block to do the same and exhorted them to physically resist. DOJ lawyers would later argue that Ms. Mason’s advocacy “resulted in a disruption of camp security and a potential threat to the health of eight hunger-striker detainees.”
The ban on the Paul, Weiss lawyers was in effect for part of 2006, but was eventually lifted as part of a private settlement containing a variety of stipulations.
On February 20, 2007, the day her law firm crowed that it “achieves more victories for Guantanamo detainees,” Al Joudi was released and repatriated to Saudi Arabia. On May 20, 2009, the New York Times — citing an unreleased Pentagon document — reported that Department of Defense officials claimed Majeed Abdullah Al Joudi was one of 74 former Guantanamo captives who “are engaged in terrorism or militant activity.” A week later the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency confirmed he had “reengaged in terrorism.”
Ms. Mason has not been the only lawyer providing assistance to detainees which extends beyond mere legal help. The John Adams Project — an enterprise undertaken by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers — says they “have assembled defense teams to be available to assist in the representation of detainees facing prosecution at Guantánamo.” That description did not cover the scope of their activities.
Last August the Washington Post revealed that the John Adams Project had covertly photographed up to 45 CIA field agents who had interrogated captured terrorists. Three John Adams lawyers went to Guantanamo and showed their clients the pictures of the interrogators, identifying the CIA agents and contractors. There are federal laws against outing CIA agents to the public, let alone to terrorists whom you are attempting to have released.
In the spirit of the John Adams Project, which believed exposing intelligence officers to be in the public interest, I wished to interview Ms. Mason on Monday, believing it to be in the public interest to expose the lawyers aiding and abetting terrorists. The following facts were obtained from public records.
Mason gave a handsome campaign donation to Barack Obama during his primary fight — the maximum donation of $2,800 — via Paul, Weiss.
Mason once clerked for Judge Sonia Sotomayor before she was on the Supreme Court, and publicly admired Sotomayor. During the nomination process, Mason told the Washington Post: “More than anything, I would call her a legal purist.”
Mason lives in an exclusive area of Alexandria, Virginia: she is listed as the sole owner of the house, which she bought in 2007 for $2.65 million. In 2010 she will pay $20,034.85 in taxes. The lot is wonderfully meandering, 30,532 square feet. (You can see it from this splendid aerial view.)
Mason is listed as the sole owner of the house, but a White Pages survey says Samuel A. Mason, a retired Episcopalian minister, also lives there.
As I waited outside the home to attempt an interview with her, I met a friendly and welcoming man who told me he was Julia’s dad. I told him I was a reporter who wanted to talk to his daughter about Guantanamo. His face darkened momentarily, and then he told me she was still asleep. I told him in a friendly way that I was happy to wait. He walked quickly inside.
Then an SUV drove up, and a woman who wasn’t Julia arrived. About twenty minutes later she came back outside, this time taking Mr. Mason’s dog and a second dog for a walk. As she was returning, I told her I wanted to talk to Julia about a Wall Street Journal article about her in today’s edition. The woman was gracious and thanked me.
At about 7:30 a.m., another man walked out, who identified himself as guest at the house. He entered and exited the house three times. At 9:00 a.m. one of the three garage doors opened. Finally, Julia.
She screeched out of her driveway in a late model Infiniti. And we were off. I simply wanted to ask her a few questions, and I assumed she was heading for Route 395 North towards Washington, D.C., to Paul, Weiss. So I followed leisurely behind her onto North Pickett Street. We stopped at a red light.
That’s when I noticed a giant gray Infiniti SUV on my tail. Instead of turning left towards 395, Julia turned right. The gray SUV hugged my tail. Suddenly, the large SUV pulled from behind me, jerked to my left, passed me and cut me off in my lane. He sandwiched himself between Julia and me. We traveled a few miles through Alexandria, following each other like teenagers going to a party.
Then we got to a light and Mason, her friend, and I pulled into the far left lane. This road led to an alley. When the light turned green, Julia drove to the left — but the gray SUV just sat there. Other cars behind me honked, but I knew what was happening. When enough time elapsed, he slowly inched into the alleyway.
I decided to continue. I followed him for miles until … well, we came right back to the house, where he used his remote control to open his garage door and drive right in. He got out of the car, looked at me, then closed the door.
It appears Mason learned some evasion tactics while hanging out with terrorists.