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Military commission to hear oral arguments on ACLU censorship challenge

A military commissions judge at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] announced [order, PDF] Thursday that he will hear oral arguments [press release] regarding allegations [motion, PDF] by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] that the government censored discussions about torture during the trial of the 9/11 [JURIST backgrounder] defendants. The order stated that because neither side objected to counsel for the ACLU and the other 14 news organizations to present oral arguments on the motion, the oral arguments will take place on August 22. In May the ACLU filed a motion [JURIST report] in the Guantanamo Bay military court seeking access to hear what methods the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] used when interrogating the five alleged 9/11 conspirators. The ACLU argues that this practice violates the First Amendment and that the public has a constitutional right to access information about the operation of the government. The military commission's decision to conduct oral arguments at the request of the ACLU and various news organizations reflects an ongoing controversial debate in the United States and abroad over the legitimacy of the Guantanamo military commissions.

In June the ACLU announced the launch of its Torture Database [JURIST report], a collection of more than 100,000 Bush-era documents recording "rendition, detention, and interrogation policies and practices." The database was launched in recognition of the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention Against Torture [text], which the UN has designated as the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. The ACLU previously acknowledged that the US government will likely ask, if they have not already done so, that the prisoners' knowledge of their imprisonment in Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] facilities remain classified. In April the chief US military judge at Guantanamo, Army Col. James Pohl, assigned himself [JURIST report] to preside over the tribunals of five alleged plotters of the 9/11 terror attacks, scheduling a hearing for May 5. Last month the DOD referred charges [JURIST report] to Pohl against the five accused 9/11 plotters. The DOD announced last May that it had sworn charges against the five men [JURIST report] for the 9/11 attacks.

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