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ACLU appeals decision allowing Guantanamo testimony censorship

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] on Thursday filed an appeal [Petition for a Writ of Mandamus, PDF] in the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] military tribunal, the US Court of Military Commission Review [official website], to an order granting the government's request to censor testimony [JURIST report]. The ACLU is seeking access to testimony from 9/11 [JURIST backgrounder] defendants relating to torture and other abuses, held in the custody of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website]. While the protective order does not prevent the defendants from testifying about their personal experiences of illegal government conduct, the ACLU argues it unconstitutionally prevents the public from hearing that testimony. The ACLU argues the censorship order violates the public's First Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder] right of access to criminal proceedings. The government's request for censorship stated that the defendant's statements concerning the CIA's detention and interrogation program qualified as classified sources, methods and activities of the US that can be kept from public knowledge. The government's response to the ACLU's appeal is due [case materials] March 6, and the ACLU's request for oral argument is deferred until after the government responds.

The procedures and policies regarding the 9/11 military commission hearings have faced significant scrutiny. On Tuesday, the judge presiding over the 9/11 military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay granted defense lawyers access [JURIST report] for the first time to Camp 7, the secret facility where detainees are housed. Earlier this month, lawyers for the US Navy contended [JURIST report] that surveillance equipment deployed throughout the Guantanamo Bay detention center was not used to breach attorney-client privilege. Earlier this month a military judge ordered the removal [JURIST report] of any monitoring system that censors the public broadcast of the hearings. In September, a federal judge rejected [JURIST report] new restrictions on the ability of lawyers representing detainees who have had their habeas corpus challenges denied or dismissed to access their clients. In February 2012 the chief US military tribunal judge ruled [JURIST report] that the content of attorney-client mail inspected at the Guantanamo Bay prison is confidential and may not be released.

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