[Ppnews] Court Asked to Bar Prisoners From Talking About Their Own Torture

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Nov 6 08:39:23 EST 2006

U.S. Seeks Silence on CIA Prisons
Court Is Asked to Bar Detainees From Talking About Interrogations

By Carol D. Leonnig and Eric Rich
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, November 4, 2006; A01

The Bush administration has told a federal judge that terrorism 
suspects held in secret CIA prisons should not be allowed to reveal 
details of the "alternative interrogation methods" that their captors 
used to get them to talk.

The government says in new court filings that those interrogation 
methods are now among the nation's most sensitive national security 
secrets and that their release -- even to the detainees' own 
attorneys -- "could reasonably be expected to cause extremely grave 
damage." Terrorists could use the information to train in 
counter-interrogation techniques and foil government efforts to 
elicit information about their methods and plots, according to 
government documents submitted to U.S. District Judge Reggie B. 
Walton on Oct. 26.

The battle over legal rights for terrorism suspects detained for 
years in CIA prisons centers on Majid Khan, a 26-year-old former 
Catonsville resident who was one of 14 high-value detainees 
transferred in September from the "black" sites to the U.S. military 
prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A lawyer with the Center for 
Constitutional Rights, which represents many detainees at Guantanamo, 
is seeking emergency access to him.

The government, in trying to block lawyers' access to the 14 
detainees, effectively asserts that the detainees' experiences are a 
secret that should never be shared with the public.

Because Khan "was detained by CIA in this program, he may have come 
into possession of information, including locations of detention, 
conditions of detention, and alternative interrogation techniques 
that is classified at the TOP SECRET//SCI level," an affidavit from 
CIA Information Review Officer Marilyn A. Dorn states, using the 
acronym for "sensitive compartmented information."

Gitanjali Gutierrez, an attorney for Khan's family, responded in a 
court document yesterday that there is no evidence that Khan had 
top-secret information. "Rather," she said, "the executive is 
attempting to misuse its classification authority . . . to conceal 
illegal or embarrassing executive conduct."

Joseph Margulies, a Northwestern University law professor who has 
represented several detainees at Guantanamo, said the prisoners 
"can't even say what our government did to these guys to elicit the 
statements that are the basis for them being held. Kafka-esque 
doesn't do it justice. This is 'Alice in Wonderland.' "

Kathleen Blomquist, a Justice Department spokeswoman, said yesterday 
that details of the CIA program must be protected from disclosure. 
She said the lawyer's proposal for talking with Khan "is inadequate 
to protect unique and potentially highly classified information that 
is vital to our country's ability to fight terrorism."

Government lawyers also argue in court papers that detainees such as 
Khan previously held in CIA sites have no automatic right to speak to 
lawyers because the new Military Commissions Act, signed by President 
Bush last month, stripped them of access to U.S. courts. That law 
established separate military trials for terrorism suspects.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is 
considering whether Guantanamo detainees have the right to challenge 
their imprisonment in U.S. courts. The government urged Walton to 
defer any decision on access to lawyers until the higher court rules.

The government filing expresses concern that detainee attorneys will 
provide their clients with information about the outside world and 
relay information about detainees to others. In an affidavit, 
Guantanamo's staff judge advocate, Cmdr. Patrick M. McCarthy, said 
that in one case a detainee's attorney took questions from a BBC 
reporter with him into a meeting with a detainee at the camp. Such 
indirect interviews are "inconsistent with the purpose of counsel 
access" at the prison, McCarthy wrote.

Dorn said in the court papers that for lawyers to speak to former CIA 
detainees under the security protocol used for other Guantanamo 
detainees "poses an unacceptable risk of disclosure." But detainee 
attorneys said they have followed the protocol to the letter, and 
none has been accused of releasing information without government clearance.

Captives who have spent time in the secret prisons, and their 
advocates, have said the detainees were sometimes treated harshly 
with techniques that included "waterboarding," which simulates 
drowning. Bush has declared that the administration will not tolerate 
the use of torture but has pressed to retain the use of unspecified 
"alternative" interrogation methods.

The government argues that once rules are set for the new military 
commissions, the high-value detainees will have military lawyers and 
"unprecedented" rights to challenge charges against them in that venue.

U.S. officials say Khan, a Pakistani national who lived in the United 
States for seven years, took orders from Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the 
man accused of orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Mohammed 
allegedly asked Khan to research poisoning U.S. reservoirs and 
considered him for an operation to assassinate the Pakistani president.

In a separate court document filed last night, Khan's attorneys 
offered declarations from Khaled al-Masri, a released detainee who 
said he was held with Khan in a dingy CIA prison called "the salt 
pit" in Afghanistan. There, prisoners slept on the floor, wore 
diapers and were given tainted water that made them vomit, Masri 
said. American interrogators treated him roughly, he said, and told 
him he "was in a land where there were no laws."

Khan's family did not learn of his whereabouts until Bush announced 
his transfer in September, more than three years after he was seized 
in Pakistan.

The family said Khan was staying with a brother in Karachi, Pakistan, 
in March 2003 when men, who were not in uniform, burst into the 
apartment late one night and put hoods over the heads of Khan, his 
brother Mohammad and his brother's wife. The couple's 1-month-old son 
was also seized.

Another brother, Mahmood Khan, who has lived in the United States 
since 1989, said in an interview this week that the four were hustled 
into police vehicles and taken to an undisclosed location, where they 
were separated and held in windowless rooms. His sister-in-law and 
her baby remained together, he said.

According to Mahmood, Mohammad said they were questioned repeatedly 
by men who identified themselves as members of Pakistan's 
intelligence service and others who identified themselves as U.S. 
officials. Mohammad's wife was released after seven days, and he was 
released after three months, without charge. He was left on a street 
corner without explanation, Mahmood said.

Periodically, he said, people who identified themselves as Pakistani 
officials contacted Mohammad and assured him that his brother would 
soon be released and that they ought not contact a lawyer or speak 
with the news media.

"We had no way of knowing who had him or where he was," Mahmood Khan 
said this week at the family home outside Baltimore. He said they 
complied with the requests because they believed anything else could 
delay his brother's release.

In Maryland, Khan's family was under constant FBI surveillance from 
the moment of his arrest, his brother said. The FBI raided their 
house the day after the arrest , removing computer equipment, papers 
and videos. Each family member was questioned extensively and shown 
photographs of terrorism suspects that Mahmood Khan said none of them 
recognized. For much of the next year, he said, they were followed everywhere.

"Pretty much we were scared," he said. "We live in this country. We 
have everything here."

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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