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Federal Judge Rejects Bush Administration's Effort to Confiscate Lawyer's Privileged Communications with GITMO Detainees

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Judge Rejects Government's Claim that Seizure and Review of Legal Documents Removed After June Suicides at Guantanamo Prison Camp was Legal

On August 28, 2006, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied the government's request for a 'filter team' to review papers seized from detainees at Guantanamo late yesterday. The Administration had requested that the court authorize the seizure and establish procedures for their review. Judge Richard Leon rejected the government's motion. In strong language, the court stated that any further review of potentially privileged material by the government comes "at their own legal peril."

If the Administration continues to deny full protection for the privileged communications between detainees and their counsel, the Center for Constitutional Rights believes "legal peril" could include contempt and disciplinary actions against government lawyers. CCR attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez, who coordinates CCR's defense of the Guantanamo detainees, hailed the decision: "With its ruling, the Court has thoroughly rejected the Administration's attempt to confiscate all of the papers of those detained at Guantanamo without judicial authorization. The court turned back an unprecedented invasion of attorney-client privilege."

After three detainees committed suicide in June 2006, the government confiscated 1100 pounds of papers belonging to those detained at Guantanamo. These documents included privileged attorney-client communications. Despite this blatant invasion of privileged attorney client-communications, neither the Court nor counsel was given advance notice of the seizure. Attorneys only learned of the seizure through their clients, and it was only confirmed nearly a month later in papers filed by the government. While the Bush Administration initially claimed it had reviewed the papers of only 11 detainees, it later acknowledged reviewing the papers of 155 prisoners prior to notifying the court.

In reaction to the decision, CCR Legal Director Bill Goodman said: "Again and again, the Executive has sought to evade judicial scrutiny of its unlawful conduct. This is only the most recent reminder that it can not continually ignore the rule of law."

 

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.