Today we learn, according to The New York Times, that the Bush administration has asked a US federal court to restrict defence lawyers’ access to clients at Guantanamo Bay because they “have caused unrest among the detainees and have improperly served as a conduit to the news media”.This proposal is an attempt by the administration to scale oversight at Guantanamo back to the dark days of 2002-2004 — a time when human rights abuse was at its worst.

It’s important to remember that Cuba was chosen as the site to hold “enemy combatants” because it ostensibly would bar US courts and US lawyers from examining/exposing their conditions of confinement. But, the plan backfired in June, 2004, when the Supreme Court ruled that detainees did have a right to challenge their detention in courts. Since then, the administration has fought hard to remove counsel — most notably with the 2006 Military Commissions Act.

That act’s constitutionality is still being tested. In the meantime, the US Government has made it clear that it does not want another Major Michael Mori — the military defence lawyer who so deftly rallied support for David Hicks — on their hands.

Michael Otterman is the author of American Torture: From the Cold War to Abu Ghraib. His website is

Peter Fray

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