Obama Administration Wants to Hide Gitmo Force-Feed Trial From Public

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The Obama administration's Justice Department is trying to keep a trial about force-feeding at Guantanamo Bay out of the public eye.

The Miami Herald's indefatigable Gitmo reporter Carol Rosenberg writes:

Justice Department lawyers filed the motion at the U.S. District Court in Washington on Friday. Lawyers for the detainee and news media organizations are opposing it. …

The Justice Department proposes to adopt a Guantánamo war court model of closing the hearing. It argues that not all the testimony will involve state secrets but, because some of what witnesses say touches on classified information, the judge should close it. As a remedy, it proposes, order that the court issue a transcript of the hearing — with any classified information blacked out.

One of the proposed witnesses is Sondra Crosby, a doctor who treats victims of torture, who testified in open court at Guantánamo in April that another captive facing death-penalty proceedings was subjected to mental, physical and sexual torture.

This case centers on Abu Wael Dhiab, 43, who has been in the prison since 2002. He's never been charged with a crime and has been cleared for release since 2009.

He participated in widespread hunger strikes last year. Consequently, he was force-fed. U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler in May approved his request for a restraining order to guards from force-feeding him, but the order recently expired. He wants it renewed, because he's being force-fed again.

Kessler is set hear on October 6-7 Dhiab's claim that "the U.S. military policy of forcing him from his cell, strapping him into a restraint chair and pumping a nutritional supplement into his stomach amounts to torture."

While the federal government says it needs to censor documents for national security purposes, Dhiab's lawyers tell Politico, "There is no reason to close the upcoming hearing, other than the government's intense desire to hide from public scrutiny the evidence we have managed to uncover over the past few months."

Rosenberg writes that 16 media organizations are filing motions to keep the case transparent.

The Associated Press has previously pointed out the significance of public knowledge about prison: The number of hunger strikers is an "unofficial barometer of conditions at the secretive military outpost." Late last year, the prison abruptly stopped publishing updates on those numbers, though.

President Barack Obama has previously made statements in opposition to force-feeding hunger strikers, but has taken no action to end the practice. 

Here are some Reason TV facts about Gitmo in 54 seconds: