Interesting take on a “public trial”
Basic to the idea of the US legal system is that trials should be public—the Founding Fathers well knew the dangers of Star Chambers and secret proceedings.
But now every statement made by the defendants in the Guantánamo military commissions is classified, automatically. This is an enormous leap, and fortunately it is being challenged—but given the direction things have been going, how it will be resolved is unclear. Cora Currier reports for ProPublica:
Can the government declare anything a Guantanamo detainee does or says automatically classified?
That’s the question posed by two challenges to a government order declaring “any and all statements” by the five detainees allegedly behind the 9/11 attacks “presumptively classified.” That includes their own accounts of their treatment, and even torture, at the hands of the U.S. government.
The government made that argument this spring at the start of the military commission trials of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others. The government says the defendants’ accounts, if made public without review by a government authority, could reveal details of the CIA’s detention and interrogation efforts.
Of course, much information about the programs—including torture of detainees—has long been public. The CIA’s so-called black-site prisons were acknowledged nearly six years ago by then-President Bush. More details about the program were released by President Obama in 2009.
The “presumptive classification” order extends to both detainees’ testimony and their discussions with their lawyers. In other words, anything said by a detainee, whether in court or to their counsel, will first need censors’ stamp of approval before it can become public.
The American Civil Liberties Union, news outlets, and one of the 9/11 defendants’ lawyers have all challenged aspects of the order. A Gitmo commission judge may consider their arguments at hearings next month.
Here’s exactly what the government says is still classified, from the order it proposed to the military commission in April: . . .