With a new round of Guantanamo prosecutions on the horizon, a senior Pentagon official has ordered war court defense lawyers to sign freshly minted ground rules that not only gag what they can say to their alleged terrorist clients but also to the public.
Retired Vice Adm. Bruce MacDonald issued the 26-page "protective order and procedures" for military and civilian lawyers who already have obtained special security clearances to work at the war court called Camp Justice. The Pentagon provides the uniformed lawyers at no charge to the alleged war criminals, who can also hire other U.S. lawyers so long as they get special security clearances to defend them.
There are currently no active charges at the court, called Military Commissions. But this month, President Barack Obama ended a two-year moratorium on military trials, which made the goal of closing the detention center appear more distant. Attorney General Eric Holder has approved three new prosecutions, notably the likely death penalty case of a Saudi man accused in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole that killed 17 sailors off Yemen.Defense lawyers were given until Monday to sign the new rules, prompting a protest by the Chief Defense Counsel Marine Col. Jeffrey Colwell, who said Friday afternoon the Pentagon was delaying implementation. Broadly, Colwell wrote, the document "unreasonably and unlawfully interferes with the attorney-client relationship" between the captives in the Guantanamo camps and American defense lawyers in uniform of their enemy....
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