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US military lawyers encounter White House resistance on new military trial rules

[JURIST] US government lawyers and US military lawyers are butting heads as the White House attempts to limit the role of the latter in framing draft legislation that would change the rules for trials of suspected terrorists, the Boston Globe reported Sunday. The military lawyers are particularly concerned [JURIST report] about not allowing detainees to see the evidence against them, which many say violates the Geneva Conventions [text].

The Bush administration, however, has limited discussion regarding the issue, arguing that disclosing some evidence during military tribunals [procedures, PDF]] could pose a threat to national security. The same logic was used in March when the Miami federal judge presiding over the trial of terror suspect Jose Padilla severely restricted the disclosure [JURIST report] of evidence containing classified material using the Classified Information Procedures Act [text]. However, the judge in the case later decided in an unorthodox move to allow Padilla to view classified documents [JURIST report] because the indictment against him was "light on facts" linking him to specific terrorist acts.

The tension between the government and the military lawyers is thought to be the result of what has been called an effort by White House political appointees to exercise greater control over career military legal experts. Military tribunals in general have been a controversial topic lately; in June, the US Supreme Court struck down the White House's military tribunals system [JURIST report; BBC analysis], prompting the drafting of new legislation. The Boston Globe has more.

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