Federal Judge Rejects Bush Administration's Effort to Confiscate Lawyer's Privileged Communications with GITMO Detainees

On August 28, 2006, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied the government's request for a 'filter team' to review papers seized from detainees at Guantanamo late yesterday. The Administration had requested that the court authorize the seizure and establish procedures for their review. Judge Richard Leon rejected the government's motion. In strong language, the court stated that any further review of potentially privileged material by the government comes "at their own legal peril."

If the Administration continues to deny full protection for the privileged communications between detainees and their counsel, the Center for Constitutional Rights believes "legal peril" could include contempt and disciplinary actions against government lawyers. CCR attorney Gitanjali Gutierrez, who coordinates CCR's defense of the Guantanamo detainees, hailed the decision: "With its ruling, the Court has thoroughly rejected the Administration's attempt to confiscate all of the papers of those detained at Guantanamo without judicial authorization. The court turned back an unprecedented invasion of attorney-client privilege."

After three detainees committed suicide in June 2006, the government confiscated 1100 pounds of papers belonging to those detained at Guantanamo. These documents included privileged attorney-client communications. Despite this blatant invasion of privileged attorney client-communications, neither the Court nor counsel was given advance notice of the seizure. Attorneys only learned of the seizure through their clients, and it was only confirmed nearly a month later in papers filed by the government. While the Bush Administration initially claimed it had reviewed the papers of only 11 detainees, it later acknowledged reviewing the papers of 155 prisoners prior to notifying the court.

In reaction to the decision, CCR Legal Director Bill Goodman said: "Again and again, the Executive has sought to evade judicial scrutiny of its unlawful conduct. This is only the most recent reminder that it can not continually ignore the rule of law."

 

The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, The Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.

 

Last modified 

October 23, 2007