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Monday, August 09, 2004

Taking Stonewalling To A Whole New Level

Having spent almost three years working in a government facility, I can probably claim exposure to all possible varieties of stonewalling. You e-mail about issues,- and even months later you are told your e-mails were not read; you talk to a person, they listen and a mere few days later claim complete ignorance of the conversation, even though the person in question is not known to be senile and displays no discernable symptoms of amnesia; you report a problem and are told that the problem does not exist, that all the elaborate proof of it is not relevant, and that you are to believe there indeed is no problem and behave accordingly on orders of some sort of authority; etc, etc, etc. All this was making my life there very dull and professionally unfullfilling; however, that stonewalling threatened only my performance, its result being little more than the waste of several hundred thousand dollars' worth of taxpayers' money,- which in this day and age really is peanuts. My liberty or life were never at stake.

Not so for the prisoners at Guantanamo and their lawyers, as well as their families. According to this LA Times article, Salim Gherebi was captured in Afghanistan in February 2002 and ended up in detention in Guantanamo. As the paper reports,
Gherebi's brother from San Diego hired Yagman in January 2003 to represent the detainee. But lawyer and client have yet to meet, and Yagman believes Gherebi probably doesn't even know he has a lawyer.

Yagman's efforts to force Justice Department lawyers to justify Gherebi's continued imprisonment have provoked a blizzard of paperwork, court motions and foot-dragging. But there's been little progress toward a face-to-face lawyer-client meeting, let alone a hearing on the merits of his case.

Gherebi's case is hardly unique. Lawyers across the country trying to represent Guantanamo clients report that the government is, as one put it, "trying to neutralize the Supreme Court decision."
The Supreme Court ruled in June that attorney-client meetings must be allowed. So, it seems like when faced with an order that even the most unwitting could not claim not to understand, the administration decided to try some high-class stonewalling. And they are so darn good at it, too.

The article also says,
The Pentagon has let a few detainees meet with a lawyer as a goodwill gesture, providing the lawyer agrees to let officials listen in and promises not to ask about conditions of the client's confinement or if he has been abused. However, the government is contesting almost every motion and writ, tying up the cases as it continues to claim, incredibly, that the Guantanamo detainees have no constitutional right of access. At the same time, detainees are pressured to plead their cases before a military panel without the due process guarantees available in federal court, a move some are resisting.
I wonder if they can say "inalienable right". That concept applies to the right of detainees to communicate with their attorneys. That right has been confirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States. This right is just there,- and it is not for the Pentagon to give or take away.

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