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Federal judge rules Guantanamo detainee has no right to top secret information

A judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Wednesday that lawyers for a detainee at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] may not review top secret documentation. Wali Mohammed Morafa, who has been detained for financially aiding the operations of terrorist organizations, including al Qaeda [JURIST news archive], requested for some top secret documentations concerning source-related information which the government refused to disclose. Instead the government offered an alternate secret version without substitutes for some source information. Morafa's lawyers have clearance for only secret but not top secret information. Relying on the discretion given to the lower courts by the 2008 US Supreme Court decision in Boumediene v. Bush [opinion], Judge Rosemary Collyer held that "Top Secret source information is not reasonably available to those with Secret clearances." She acknowledged the burden on Morafa's lawyers that may result from her ruling but she stated that the value of the requested information is merely minimal allowing the lawyers to present their case without such. Moreover, because source-related information is highly sensitive and Morafa has access to edited versions of the substance deriving from such, there is a stronger interest in protecting national security by keeping the identity of the sources confidential.

Earlier this month US President Barack Obama [official website] signed [JURIST report] into law the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 (NDAA) [text, PDF] which expressly prohibits using funds to transfer individuals detained at Guantanamo Bay and also prohibits using funds to construct facilities in the US intended to house Guantanamo detainees. During his second day in office, Obama issued an executive order [text; JURIST report] directing the prison to be closed. However, in the face of congressional opposition [JURIST report], the Obama administration missed its self-imposed deadline to close the military prison and, following the 2010 mid-term election, Congress effectively halted [JURIST backgrounder] plans to close the facility. The signing of the NDAA will further hinder Obama's ability to close Guantanamo Bay, despite a November report [JURIST report] from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) [official website] that Guantanamo detainees could be safely absorbed by prisons throughout the US. Forum contributor Jonathan Hafetz argues that Obama bears responsibility [JURIST op-ed] for the political missteps that prevented Guantanamo from closing and criticizes him for embracing the "larger detention system that Guantanamo embodies." Conversely, Forum contributor David Frakt agrees that the Obama administration is partially responsible, but believes lCongress is argely to blame [JURIST op-ed] for passing a "series of increasingly stringent spending restrictions which have made it virtually impossible to transfer most detainees out of Guantanamo."

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