News media organizations have contended to an appeals court that the federal government is using “sleight of hand” to keep proceedings secret in a dispute over terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui’s access to an al-Qaida prisoner, the Associated Press reports.
Eleven media groups told the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., this week, that arguments in the case should be open because matters set for oral argument in June and written pleadings “do not consist entirely or even largely” of classified material.
A trial judge has granted Moussaoui pretrial access to the prisoner, Ramzi Binalshibh, a suspected coordinator of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The government appealed the order, arguing it would interfere with Binalshibh’s interrogation.
To argue for secrecy in the appeals proceeding, the government has cited the Classified Information Procedures Act, the law governing use of classified material in criminal cases. The media groups said the government improperly used the phrase “CIPA proceeding” to cloak virtually the entire appeal in secrecy. This amounts to “a sleight of hand” because “there is no basis in the statute or case law for reversing the presumption in favor of public access to oral argument and the record,” the media motion said.