ACLU Asks Guantánamo Tribunal Not to Censor 9/11 Defendants’ Accounts of Torture
Motion Seeks to Bar Government from Keeping Statements about Torture and Abuse Under Wraps
WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union has asked the Guantanamo Bay military commission to reject the government’s attempts to censor any statements by defendants in the 9/11 military commission proceedings about their detention and treatment in U.S. custody.
The defendants are scheduled to appear on May 5 before the military commission at Guantanamo for an arraignment, where they will be formally charged with terrorism-related crimes that could bring the death penalty if the defendants are convicted.
The ACLU’s motion, made public yesterday evening, asks the commission to deny any government request to suppress statements by the defendants based on their personal knowledge of their detention and treatment, including torture and other abuse, in CIA and Department of Defense custody. In a filing made public on May 2, the government contended that any statements by the defendants’ concerning their “exposure” to the CIA’s detention and interrogation program were presumptively classified as “sources, methods and activities” of the United States and could be withheld from the public.
“The government’s claim that it can classify statements based on a prisoner’s own knowledge and experience of illegal government conduct is chillingly Orwellian and has no basis in law,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project and lead counsel on the motion. “Our nation’s civilian and military courts have historically recognized that the truth, no matter how ugly, is better aired than concealed from the public. The most important terrorism trial of our time should not be an exception to the rule of public access asits legitimacy depends in part on its transparency.”
The motion also seeks to bar a delayed audio feed of the proceedings to the public, media and courtroom observers or, alternatively, a court order for the prompt release of an unredacted transcript of the proceedings. It states that the tradition of public access to military tribunals dates back centuries. In addition, it notes the historic nature of the proceedings has generated substantial public and press interest in how the defendants were captured and whether their detention was legal.
The ACLU has asked to argue its motion to the military commission at the arraignment.
The motion can be read at:
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.