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Gitmo Defense Lawyers Under Investigation

Peter Finn at The Washington Post reports this morning that the Justice Department is questioning military defense lawyers about whether they defended suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay too aggressively by showing them photos of CIA agents who might have been involved in abusive interrogations. Justice Department investigators are looking into whether the lawyers representing men suspected of involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks breached security rules protecting classified information and the identities of CIA agents by asking their clients to help identify CIA officials and contractors who participated in abusive interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects at “black sites” outside the United States. The lawyers would presumably try to call these officers as witnesses if their clients go to trial.

According to The Post, the photos were taken by investigators hired by the John Adams Project, a program created by the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to support military counsel at Guantanamo Bay. It’s not clear whether those organizations themselves are under investigation.

Joshua Dratel, counsel for the John Adams Project and a prominent criminal defense lawyer, yesterday criticized the government for investigating the lawyers while they’re still investigating their clients’ defenses, suggesting it was designed to chill the lawyers’ investigations. “The lawyers have a duty to find out what happened to their clients, and to the extent that the government and certain agencies are resistant to that to protect themselves and to insulate themselves from accountability, there is a tension there, and to the extent that this investigation is part of that tension, it’s most unfortunate,” he told the Post. “But the lawyers will not shirk their duty.”

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