Light Shone on Gitmo's Lawyer-Client Policies
WASHINGTON (CN) - A journalist known for chronicling hidden details about Guantanamo Bay wrested new information from the government about restrictions on detainee access to lawyers in a federal court ruling.
Jason Leopold, the author of a book about a detainee's brother titled "The Other Abu Zabaidah," used to report for Truthout and just joined Al Jazeera America. He asked to intervene in trio of cases involving Guantanamo detainees protesting obstacles they alleged in their access to counsel.
The prisoners were unable to lift the seal on two declarations by Col. John V. Bogdan, the commander of the Joint Detention Group, which they believed would support the case.
After Leopold asked to join the case, the Pentagon inadvertently filed a version of Col. Bogdan's declaration with four of the paragraphs unredacted. Government lawyers revised their arguments to ask the court to keep the latter part of the document under wraps.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth found that the government's "spare and generic assertions" of "operational security" and "force-protection measures" could not justify the secrecy it requested.
"Before the court will deem nonclassified information protected, 'the government must give the court a basis for withholding [the information] from public view,'" Lamberth wrote, quoting a decision of a suit filed by Haji Bismullah, an Afghan citizen repatriated in 2009. "The government has failed to do so here."
Lamberth then ordered both of the colonel's declarations to be unsealed. Responding from his Twitter account, Leopold reveled that the decision was a "VICTORY for transparency."