No Comment — April 6, 2009, 8:04 am

Civil Liberties Villain of the Week

The Guardian identifies the Civil Liberties Villain of the Week: a group of government lawyers that hides behind the face of anonymity as the “Department of Defense Privilege Review Team.”

Lawyers for Binyam Mohamed face the incredible prospect of a six-month jail sentence in America after writing a letter to President Obama detailing their client’s allegations of torture by US agents. The privilege review team–officials from the US department of defence who monitor and censor communication between Guantánamo prisoners and their lawyers–have previously been accused of using their powers to suppress evidence of the abuse and mistreatment of detainees. Clive Stafford Smith, director of legal charity Reprieve, and his colleague Ahmed Ghappour have been summoned to appear before a Washington court on May 11 after a complaint was made by the privilege review team.

Stafford Smith had written to the president after judges in the UK ruled against the release of US evidence detailing Mohamed’s alleged torture at Guantánamo. The letter [PDF] asked the president to reconsider the U.S. position and urged him to release the evidence into the public domain. He attached a memo summarising the case because his U.S. security clearance gives him access to the classified material. In order to comply with classification guidelines, the memo did not identify individual officers by name or specify locations of the abuse. He and Gappour submitted the memo to the privilege team for clearance but the memo was redacted to just the title, leaving the president unable to read it. Stafford Smith included the redacted copy of the memo in his letter to illustrate the extent to which it had been censored. He described it as a “bizarre reality”. “You, as commander in chief, are being denied access to material that would help prove that crimes have been committed by U.S. personnel. This decision is being made by the very people who you command.”

So, the faceless Privilege Review Team strikes again, trying to exact revenge for the public exposure of their petty manipulations in which, among other things, they concluded that the commander-in-chief was not entitled to review materials they considered too sensitive. Anyone with information as to the identity of any members of the Privilege Review Team is asked to please be in contact. I am looking for names, and information about the team members’ claims to have graduated from law schools or to have membership in bar associations. They’re long overdue for a privilege review of their own.

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