|Defense counsel James Connell and LtCol Sterling Thomas
ruling released that allows detainees to speak of their experiences
James Connell, Connell Law LLC, and Air Force LtCol Sterling
Thomas, Office of the Chief Defense Counsel, representing Abd al Aziz Ali, one of the five High Value Detainees whose cases are being adjudicated emerged from closed/classified Military Commission hearings today, 16 December, at GTMO with an announcement.
Connell told the press corps that U.S. Colonel Judge James K. Pohl today issued
a sealed ruling related to "presumptive classification." Connell explained that the new court order, retreating
from previous orders, opens up the possibility that GTMO detainees may be able to communicate their observations and experiences of their detainment and torture (now deemed classified) to outside sources.
Mr. Connell observed that while the ruling changes nothing for defense attorneys
(still bound by their clearances to protect all classified information), for detainees it raises the possibility that they
will be able to open up with outside authorities. "This
is a major step forward" says Connell, who characterized the move as "part of an overall shift in the Government's
approach to classification." While Connell was optimistic about the potential implications of the ruling, he noted
that the responsibility for facilitating such communications will shift from the Military Commission to Joint Task Force GTMO.
Says Connell: "The real question is whether the prison will allow the prisoners to communication with foreign government
officials, medical care providers, human rights authorities, and media."
"This is important. Until today a prospective order prohibited them from saying anything from
the most secretive detention facility in the world." Connell offered that the legal shift was not accidental and
was not arbitrarily achieved. "We have been fighting for this.... this is not a change of heart, but the result
of defense teams pushing back."
The interpretations and opinions of defense counsel notwithstanding, Judge
Pohl has not yet directed his ruling be publicly released. Indeed, DoD Spokesman Lt. Col. J. Todd Breasseale advises:
"analysis of the precise meaning and effect of the ruling must await publication of the order to the Military Commissions