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    Court Is Asked to Bar Detainees From Talking About Interrogations U.S. SEEKS SILENCE ON CIA PRISONS Carol D. Leonnig and Eric Rich Washington Post
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 2, 2007
      Court Is Asked to Bar Detainees From Talking About Interrogations

      Carol D. Leonnig and Eric Rich
      Washington Post

      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.

      "We had no way of knowing who had him or where he was," said Mahmood
      Khan, brother of Majid Khan, who was held for more than three years
      in a secret CIA prison. (By Michael Robinson Chavez -- The Washington

      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
      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

      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

      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

      "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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