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Updated 04/26/2007

Human Rights–War on Terror News Update—April 27, 2007

1. Bush administration requests new restrictions for Guantánamo prisoner attorneys
2. Justice Department asks federal court to dismiss all suits by Guantánamo detainees
3. Guantánamo detainee charged with murder committed as a minor
4. Bush administration asks Congress to expand its eavesdropping powers
5. Pentagon to close terror-threat database

1. Bush administration requests new restrictions for Guantánamo prisoner attorneys
Earlier this month the Bush administration filed a federal appeals court request for increased restrictions on lawyers representing detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Citing “threats to security at Guantánamo,” the Justice Department’s filing proposes limiting the number of existing lawyer visits to three and potential lawyer visits to one, permitting government officials to read mail sent to a prisoner from his lawyer, and denying attorneys access to secret evidence on why a prisoner is classified as an “enemy combatant.” The administration claims that lawyers have often been used by detainees to gain access to the media. [NY Times, 4/26/07; Miami Herald, 4/26/07]

2. Justice Department asks federal court to dismiss all suits by Guantánamo detainees
On April 19 the Justice Department asked the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia to dismiss all lawsuits by prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. The request followed the Supreme Court’s April 2 refusal to hear the appeal of two Guantánamo detainees who claimed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 unlawfully denied them the right to challenge their detention in U.S. courts. Refusing to hear the appeals effectively legitimized the Military Commissions Act, although two Supreme Court justices stated that detainees may be able to have their appeals heard in the future if they have exhausted other legal remedies. Lawyers for detainees have asked Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to impose a stay on its previous ruling, fearing that the government now will be able to transfer prisoners abroad, putting clients at risk for abuse and severely limiting the possibility of judicial review of their cases. [AP, 4/19/07; DOJ Press Release, 4/19/07; AP, 4/25/07; SCOTUSblog, 4/25/07; past story: HRWT News Update, 4/13/07]

3. Guantánamo detainee charged with murder committed as a minor
Omar Khadr, a prisoner at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, was charged on April 24 for alleged crimes committed when he was 15 years old. Khadr is charged under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 with the murder of a U.S. soldier with a grenade, providing support to terrorism, attempted murder, conspiracy and spying. Khadr, who is now 20, was captured after being wounded in a firefight with U.S. soldiers in eastern Afghanistan in July 2002. Amnesty International has criticized the treatment of Khadr stating, “Instead of taking his age into account … as [U.S. authorities] were obliged to do under international law, they subjected him to years of indefinite detention without charge.” [AP, 4/24/07; JURIST, 4/24/07; AI press release, 4/25/07]

4. Bush administration asks Congress to expand its eavesdropping powers
On April 13 the Bush administration proposed amendments to the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that would allow it to electronically eavesdrop on foreign nationals inside the United States, including nationals with permanent residency status, without a warrant from the FISA court. The amendments would also protect telecommunications companies from legal liability for cooperation with U.S. authorities in domestic surveillance, after such companies were subject to numerous lawsuits for cooperating with the National Security Agency’s controversial warrantless wiretapping program. [Reuters, 4/13/07; JURIST, 4/13/07]

5. Pentagon to close terror-threat database
On April 24 Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence James Clapper, Jr. announced that the Pentagon would close the controversial TALON data collection program for domestic terror threats. Started in 2003 to collect intelligence about threats to U.S. military bases, it was expanded to include reports from local law enforcement agencies about nonviolent demonstrations—monitoring students, Quakers and other antiwar groups. According to an internal Pentagon report released by the American Civil Liberties Union, as of December 2005 2,821 of about 13,000 entries in the TALON database were regarding U.S. citizens. A military investigation concluded 261 entries were improperly collected. The ACLU praised the decision to close TALON but warned, “The fact remains that many such programs continue in secret.” [Wash Post, 4/25/07; JURIST, 4/25/07; ACLU press release, 4/25/07; past story: HRWT News Update, 12/01/06]

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