Feds Must Revisit Secrecy of Bin Laden Docs

     MANHATTAN (CN) – The government must divulge why it wants to keep a lid on the challenge a convicted terrorist filed against evidence related to the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, a federal judge ruled.
     A federal jury convicted Abid Naseer of supporting al-Qaida at a trial earlier this year featuring an FBI agent’s dramatic testimony about the raid of the bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
     Before trial, Naseer, a UK-based Pakistani, had fought the introduction of the bin Laden evidence for reasons that do not appear in the court record.
     After learning that Naseer’s appellate attorney may consider this issue on appeal, Courthouse News sent U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie a letter on May 13 seeking the release of Naseer’s objections to the bin Laden documents.
     Dearie ordered the government Wednesday to respond to the “application to unseal documents recovered from Osama bin Laden’s compound and any sealed filings related to those documents by May 26, 2015.”
     Though federal prosecutors declined to comment on the directive, the documents that this request implicates could provide answers to an ongoing controversy ignited by legendary reporter Seymour Hersh.
     Capping off a yearlong investigation in a 10,000-word article for the London Review of Books, Hersh’s article “The Killing of Osama bin Laden” accuses the White House of deceiving the public about the Abbottabad raid.
     In one of the story’s more eye-popping allegations, Hersh’s sources told him that intelligence analysts “fabricated” the supposed “treasure trove” of intelligence that came to be used in two federal court prosecutions and a major military court-martial.
     The Office of the Director of National Intelligence maintains that the trove is real, and introduced more of this material into the public record this week with a disclosure titled “Bin Laden’s Bookshelf.”
     Though the Courthouse News request on Naseer’s case gained traction, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan rejected a similar request related to the accused terrorist behind the 1998 bombings of two U.S. Embassies in East Africa.
     Bernard Kleinman, an attorney for the now-deceased Anas al-Libi, had revealed in an exclusive interview that his former client disputed the authenticity of the bin Laden documents in a sealed motion to suppress.
     Al-Libi died of liver cancer before trial.
     Kaplan rejected the request to unseal al-Libi’s filing by noting that the government must be notified before any application is made in his Manhattan chambers.
     The Abbottabad stash also helped support the top charge in the trial of WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning, but attorney Nancy Hollander has remained tight-lipped on plans to challenge this issue on appeal.
     Manning’s trial attorney, David Coombs, had stipulated to the documents at the court-martial.
     Meanwhile, Hersh’s article continues to divide the court of public opinion.
     The New York Times and NBC News corroborated key aspects of the Hersh investigation, particularly that a Pakistani intelligence official became a “walk in” at the U.S. Embassy in Abbottabad seeking a cut of a $25 million bounty on bin Laden’s head.
     Among journalists writing off Hersh’s story, the Vox website suggested that the My Lai and Abu Ghraib reporter has resorted to peddling “conspiracy theories.”
     The Columbia Journalism Review meanwhile called for cooler heads in this controversy, calling the current reaction “disgraceful.”
     Freedom of the Press Foundation executive director Trevor Timm argued in this piece that, agree or disagree with Hersh’s sources, the public discourse on this issue should be grounded in the facts rather than personal attacks on a journalist.

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