US Government Hands Lawyers Less Information About 9/11
The Intercept reports that the US government is censoring information about CIA torture from lawyers of the individuals accused of carrying out 9/11 attacks.
The Defense lawyers for the individuals accused of carrying out the 9/11 attacks said that the public - which includes journalists, human rights organizations, and unions - is receiving more information about CIA torture for their clients than the attorneys themselves, The Intercept reported.
Sanitized summaries of CIA cables handed over to the defense attorneys do not include critical information about torture, the lawyers told a war court in Guantanamo Bay this month.
The public is requesting the information directly from the CIA in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, receiving more access than defense attorneys.
Government prosecutors rewrite CIA cables before handing them over to the lawyers, censoring information deemed sensitive and critical. These bureaucratic processes show the government’s failure to ensure a robust defense for the men charged in the attacks," explained The Intercept.
Dror Ladin, staff attorney at the ACLU National Security Project, accused the US government of "not taking real care to redact only what is necessary, and it’s in fact very clearly over-redacting things that are public."
The censored information about the CIA, such as date, time, location, and people involved and responsible, is significant for lawyers because the five accused individuals could be convicted based on what they were subjected to by the intelligence agency, Ladin warned.
“It’s one thing to just throw around the words ‘torture’ or ‘degrading treatment.’ It’s another thing to really walk through what it was like every day for a person who is being waterboarded over and over and over, or being starved, or being hung from his hands.”
For his part, James Connell, lead attorney for one of the accused, has been using documents handed to the public under FOIA to complete the missing documents he received from the prosecutors.
Why does the government withhold information?
Jason Leopold, a reporter whose FOIA lawsuits have helped release thousands of redacted CIA documents, revealed to The Intercept that "What they are withholding is less about national security and more about protecting information that could prove to be embarrassing to the agency."
Last September, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order to declassify FBI investigations over 9/11. An FBI document that was posted online differed from the version that was used in court in October 2019, Connell highlighted.
Requesting documents from the government over 9/11 investigations is an overwhelming process for the lawyers of the accused and could take months in court. The judges may even not decide on providing these documents to the lawyers.
"The government is taking the approach that they’re not going to turn over discovery unless we fight everything document by document," expressed Sean Gleason, attorney for one of the accused during a court session.
"If that is their tact, Your Honor, we’re going to be trying this case forever."