As Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Is Formally Charged, Government Delays Security Clearance For Civilian Defense Lawyers

May 13, 2008 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – The U.S. government continues to delay security clearances for attorneys seeking to represent Khalid Sheikh Mohammed even as formal charges are announced against him and four other detainees today as part of the Bush administration’s military commission system. The efforts of civilian attorneys to represent Mohammed are part of the John Adams Project – a partnership between the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers – designed to provide legal teams to represent Guantánamo detainees.

“The ACLU has offered to represent Khalid Sheikh Mohammed because his case – like that of other Guantánamo detainees – is being prosecuted in an unconstitutional, unfair, and biased proceeding that makes a mockery of our Constitution and American values, including the right to a fair trial,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “When these fundamental principles are threatened, the ACLU has always and will always step in to defend them.”

David Nevin and Scott McKay, two attorneys from the ACLU’s John Adams Project who are interested in representing Mohammed, are still awaiting final security clearance from the Department of Defense to represent him. Nevin and McKay were granted security clearances for another terrorism-related case four and a half years ago and applied for clearances for this case in February. Mohammed was held in captivity for five years before having access to a lawyer.

“The government’s failure to provide the necessary clearances to lawyers who have already been cleared for other national security cases is yet another example of the government’s obstructing this process and stacking the deck in its favor,” said Romero.

The military commissions allow convictions based on secret evidence, hearsay, and evidence possibly derived from torture – including waterboarding, a technique the government has acknowledged it used on Mohammed. Mohammed is required to appear before the military commission within 30 days of the filing of charges against him.

“If the ACLU and civilian counsel who have stepped forward to assist in the legal representation of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in these patently unfair proceedings are impeded from doing so before he speaks publicly in court, it will once again demonstrate how these proceedings are fundamentally unfair and bordering on a farce,” added Romero.

Further demonstrating the inherent unfairness of the Bush administration’s military commissions, a military judge disqualified a top Pentagon general last week who was accused of politicizing the already flawed system. Navy lawyers had charged that Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann’s dual role of supervising the prosecution and offering legal advice to the commissions’ convening authority, who must make impartial assessments on issues raised by both the prosecution and defense, represented a conflict of interest.

For more information on the ACLU’s John Adams Project, see:

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