NEW YORK (AP) — Justice Department employees involved in a lawsuit filed on behalf of Sept. 11 detainees must disclose whether they know of any government monitoring of conversations between the detainees and their attorneys, a judge ruled Tuesday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Steven Gold ruled in response to a motion by the Center for Constitutional Rights, a human rights group representing the detainees. It filed the motion after the public disclosure in December of a secret government program that allowed investigators to eavesdrop on international communications between Americans and people suspected of terrorist ties.
The class action lawsuit was filed in federal court in New York in 2002 on behalf of hundreds of Arab and Muslim men who were detained and deported as part of the government’s investigation into the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The center had asked the judge to order the government to disclose whether telephone, e-mail or other communication between detainees and their lawyers had been monitored or intercepted since the detainees left the country.
The Justice Department said its lawyers and support staff hadn’t received any attorney-client communications and that such conversations wouldn’t be used in its defense.
But the government would not say whether employees or potential witnesses knew of any monitoring, saying such a disclosure could reveal classified information. It said it would allow witnesses to pick one of a series of statements about what they knew but reserved the right to call witnesses who refused to sign any statement.
The Center for Constitutional Rights applauded the ruling. “Now they have to step forward and answer some tough questions,” said the center’s legal director, Bill Goodman.
Detailse here from the AP.