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Federal judge rules Guantanamo documents must be made public

[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] denied [opinion, PDF] the government's motion on Monday to keep sealed unclassified judicial records connected to the imprisonment of Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees. Judge Thomas Hogan ruled that the public has both First Amendment and common law rights to access the unclassified documents. The court stated that the government must either produce the unclassified factual returns or seek protected status for specific information it is attempting to withhold for each of the 107 petitioners. Hogan wrote:

Accordingly, the government's motion is denied without prejudice. On or before July 29, 2009, for each petitioner in the above-captioned cases, the government is directed to either (i) publicly file a declassified or unclassified factual return or (ii) file under seal with the petitioner’s counsel and the appropriate Merits Judge an unclassified factual return highlighting with a colored marker the exact words or lines the government seeks to be deemed protected, as well as a memorandum explaining why each word or line should be protected.
Lawyers for the detainees and news organizations had argued [Reuters report] that the public had a constitutional right to the documents.

The documents support the government's case for the continued imprisonment of the detainees. Last month, FBI Director Robert Mueller [official profile] told the US House Judiciary Committee that the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to the US could pose a threat to national security, even if they remain in maximum security facilities, a claim which US President Barack Obama denies [JURIST reports]. In April, US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] testified that he was willing to release as much information as possible [JURIST report] in regards to interrogation techniques used on Guantanamo Bay detainees.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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