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King blasts Pentagon over refusal to name Gitmo defense attorneys

Written by Jim Kouri Saturday, 10 March 2012
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This week the head of the House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security blasted the Pentagon's failure to comply with a request regarding documents related to the discovery of classified information in the prison cells of Guantanamo Bay military detention center inmates. 

 

U.S. Rep. Peter T. King (R-NY), Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, blasted Department of Defense (DoD) officials for their refusal to provide the identities of attorneys representing terrorist suspects in Gitmo who were involved with the terrorist attacks of 9/11. 

 

In January 2012, former CIA officer John Kiriakou was charged with leaking classified information that, by way of detainees’ defense counsel, ended up in the cells of al-Qaeda detainees at Guantanamo, according to Rep. King. 

 

The alarming revelation came just days after lawyers for an al-Qaeda operative -- USS Cole bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri -- jailed at the facility, attempted to convince a military judge that monitoring detainees’ mail violates attorney-client privilege. The admiral (David Woods) who runs the prison explained that detainees’ legal mail is promptly marked after being identified and not read to preserve attorney-client privilege, according to the Law Enforcement Examiner's sources.

 

"Apparently Gitmo detainees -- who are terrorists and enemy combatants -- have more rights than Americans in U.S. prisons. Prisoner mail in the U.S. is routinely screened. But terrorists and people caught on the battlefield receive minimal scrutiny?" notes former police commander and military intelligence officer Sid Franes.

 

Admiral Woods' explanation was not satisfactory to al-Nashiri’s extensive legal team or the left-wing civil rights groups that attended the hearing in a top security courtroom built to try terrorists. Most mainstream media outlets were also critical of the screening process, which military officials say is necessary to intercept contraband before it gets in the hands of the prisoners. 

 

Meanwhile, King also called for the Department of Justice to disclose the names of lawyers involved in showing photos of covert CIA officers to terrorists at Guantanamo. 

 

King, citing a Committee investigation into “the U.S. government’s response and handling of threats potentially emanating from detainees,” requested that DoD General Counsel Jeh Johnson, share the names of all defense counsel who have represented certain detainees implicated in the terrorist attacks of 9/11. 

 

Last week, Johnson flatly refused to identify the attorneys, going so far as to state that the Pentagon “reserves the right to object to further inquiry on the overall subject of defense counsel’s conduct in their efforts to represent the 9/11 defendants.” 

 

Chairman King said: “Jeh Johnson’s refusal is unacceptable, and I completely disagree with his reasoning. 

 

“Congress designed military commissions to be open and transparent. Unlike the CIA officers whose identities were passed to al-Qaeda, these attorneys ‘representing’ Guantanamo detainees have no reasonable expectation that their identities be kept secret. 

 

“As an attorney myself, I fully respect the adversarial system and the important, and public, role of defense attorneys. If these detainees’ lawyers have only engaged in zealous representation of their clients, they should have nothing to hide. 

 

“Legitimate advocacy does not include abusing a position of trust by sharing classified information with members of al-Qaeda. A license to practice law is not a license to aid the enemies of the United States. 

 

“The American people deserve to know exactly who has been allowed unmonitored contact with the men awaiting trial for the murders of nearly 3,000 innocents on 9/11. 

 

“If the Pentagon refuses to release these lawyers’ names, I am committed to exploring appropriate Congressional tools to obtain them.” 

 

Source: The Cypress Times

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