No Comment — October 20, 2010, 1:59 pm

Another Chapter in the Justice Department’s State-Secrecy Charade

ProPublica’s Dafna Linzer has an important story on a court opinion issued in the case of Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman, a man imprisoned for seven years in Guantánamo. Judge Henry Kennedy concluded that the prisoner is mentally ill and that the government had no tenable basis to hold him. He issued an opinion, going through the normal channels for classification review. The Justice Department cleared a form of his opinion, and it was released. Within days, the Justice Department, stung by the scathing nature of the opinion, which methodically reviewed false factual claims that DOJ lawyers made, insisted that it be withdrawn and rewritten, apparently arguing to the judge that it disclosed classified information about the circumstances of the prisoner’s capture. As quickly became apparent, the object of the Justice Department’s revisions had little to do with state secrets—but a lot to do with covering up the Court’s dissection of what lawyers like to call a “failure of candor.” Uthman was probably mentally ill when he arrived, and his condition likely deteriorated at Guantánamo. The hypocrisy of the Justice Department’s position became even more glaring when it filed an appellate brief (PDF) containing its own highly doctored versions of the very facts it had insisted that Kennedy avoid discussing.

Watch Dafna discuss the case here with Amy Goodman:

The upshot, as Andrew Sullivan suggests, is that the Justice Department has moved from trying to keep national-security secrets to falsifying essential facts, in an attempt to mislead the public. If this were one isolated incident, it would be troubling. But it reflects a well-entrenched pattern at this point. The Administration insists that embarrassing facts be suppressed as state secrets, while classified secrets that are in its interest to reveal are spread across the pages of a best-selling political book, released just in time for the midterm elections. Is there any hypocrisy about this? Mike Isikoff asks all the right questions here, and Administration spokesmen are clueless in response.

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