Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Detainees’ Lawyers Can’t Look at Leaked Documents

The New York Times reports that hours after WikiLeaks, the Times and other news organizations began publishing leaked documents regarding Guantánamo detainees online yesterday, the Justice Department informed Guantánamo defense lawyers that the documents remained legally classified even after they were made public. The lawyers have security clearances and are obligated to treat the readily available files “in accordance with all relevant security precautions and safeguards.”

Joseph Margulies, a Northwestern law professor who represents a detainee, told the Times that the prohibition has serious implications.  He explained that decisions about who gets released have been influenced by politics and public pressure as much as by legal standards.  “It’s important to be able to use these documents to shape and inform the discussion in the public square,” he said.  He further stated that if a leaked risk assessment contains clearly disproved accusations about a prisoner, a lawyer should be able to publicly refute it.