US Justice Department seeks to limit Gitmo lawyers
The Justice Department is seeking to limit the autonomy of lawyers representing detainees at the Guantánamo Bay detention center, which has sparked a "new legal battle over the administration’s detention policies," reports the New York Times.
"Saying that visits by civilian lawyers and attorney-client mail have caused 'intractable problems and threats to security at Guantánamo,' a Justice Department filing proposes new limits on the lawyers’ contact with their clients and access to evidence in their cases that would replace more expansive rules that have governed them since they began visiting Guantánamo detainees in large numbers in 2004," writes William Glaberson.
The Justice Department's filing claims that lawyers have "caused unrest among the detainees and have improperly served as a conduit to the news media."
Lawyers argue that further limited access would make it impossible for them to properly represent their clients.
The dispute is the latest and perhaps the most significant clash over the role of lawyers for the detainees. "There is no right on the part of counsel to access to detained aliens on a secure military base in a foreign country," the Justice Department filing argued.
Under the proposal, filed this month in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the government would limit lawyers to three visits with an existing client at Guantánamo; there is now no limit. It would permit only a single visit with a detainee to have him authorize a lawyer to handle his case. And it would permit a team of intelligence officers and military lawyers not involved in a detainee’s case to read mail sent to him by his lawyer.
The proposal would also reverse existing rules to permit government officials, on their own, to deny the lawyers access to secret evidence used by military panels to determine that their clients were enemy combatants.
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