Records Wanted

By Dan Froomkin
12:19 PM ET, 02/12/2009

Marisa Taylor writes for McClatchy Newspapers: "The Obama administration, which vowed to usher in a 'new era of openness in our country,' either has delayed action on requests for access to government records or refused to disclose them in three early, high-profile tests of the pledge.

"This week, Justice Department lawyers announced that they'd continue to assert the state secrets argument made by the Bush administration in a lawsuit alleging that five men were tortured abroad in U.S.-run prisons.

"In a separate case, the Obama Justice Department has agreed with the Bush administration — at least initially — that the news media shouldn't have immediate access to court records in the ongoing Guantanamo detainee litigation.

"In another example, the administration on Wednesday told the American Civil Liberties Union that it needed more time to decide whether to release undisclosed Bush Justice Department memos that justified harsh interrogation practices. A federal judge already had given government lawyers more time in the matter, which has been pending for five years....

"Justice Department officials say they intend to be more open than the last administration was, but that they need more time to find the right balance between openness and security."

Raymond Bonner writes in the New York Times: "Lawyers for a Guantánamo detainee at the center of a diplomatic stand-off between Britain and the United States are appealing directly to President Obama as part of a stepped-up campaign to have classified information about his treatment while in American custody made public.

"The lawyers have faxed a letter to the White House asking Mr. Obama to review the case of the detainee, Binyam Mohamed, who they say was tortured 'in truly medieval ways' over a period of more than two years after rendition to secret prisons overseas....

"The case could potentially be embarrassing for the new administration, which came to power promising a shift in policy on the issues of torture, rendition and state secrets. Advocates for Mr. Mohamed and other detainees have been counting on a sharp break from the approach taken under the Bush administration.

"Those hopes appeared to suffer a blow earlier this week, however, in a separate civil case in San Francisco in which Mr. Mohamed and four other detainees filed suit against a subsidiary of the Boeing Company, claiming that the subsidiary arranged for rendition flights. At a hearing Monday before a panel of appeals judges in Federal Court, a lawyer for the Obama administration seemed to surprise the judges by advancing the argument for preserving state secrets that was originally formulated by the Bush administration."

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