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Appeals court weighs tougher rules on Gitmo detainee-lawyer communication

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] is currently reviewing proposed rule changes that would place further restrictions on attorney contact with detainees now held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. The rules, submitted in government court filings for use in the case against Haji Bismullah, are intended to prevent defense attorneys from passing along allegedly inflammatory materials to their clients, such as news clippings about terrorist attacks and detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. Specifically, the rules would decrease client contact from unlimited visits to four visits. Mail inspectors, who are currently permitted to search legal mail for actual contraband only, would be authorized to search for unnecessary and provocatory current event information. Now, lawyers must receive security clearance to view classified case information, while under the proposed rules, the lawyer would be forced to submit to a government determination that the lawyer "needs to know" the information sought. Also, the proposed rules would give the military the power to determine which topics and information lawyers and their clients are allowed to discuss, while under the current rules, the military must petition a judge to declare certain topics and information unmentionable. In the US Supreme Court's 2004 ruling in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld [Duke case law backgrounder; opinion text], then-Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote that Hamdi, a foreign-born detainee, "unquestionably has the right to access to counsel."

If the court accepts the rules in the Bismullah case, it is expected that they would apply to all detainees. Bismullah, once an Afghan transportation official, is among the first detainees to appeal their enemy combatant designation. The Boston Globe has more.

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