Judge Rejects Obama Administration Argument that Declassifying Guantánamo Case Documents is Too Much Work

Sunday, March 31, 2013
Mohammed Sulaymon Barre

The Obama administration has been ordered by a federal judge to declassify the government’s file on a former detainee after officials tried to claim that doing so would require too much work.


Mohammed Sulaymon Barre of Somaliland, who was held at Guantánamo until December 2009, filed a motion to compel the government to disclose the information officials had collected on him.


The government responded by saying it could not meet the request because of the time it would take to sift through the file and redact portions of it.


U.S. District Chief Judge Royce Lamberth rejected the administration’s argument, and said he was “troubled by the government’s apparent lack of urgency in issuing public versions of classified materials filed in Guantánamo proceedings.”


Lamberth added: “The government’s arguments are unavailing and largely boil down to this: ‘Declassification is complicated and time consuming and we already have a lot of work—please don’t pile on.’”


Barre (a.k.a. Mohamed Saleban Bare) was arrested and detained in November 2001 while living as a UN-designated refugee in Karachi, Pakistan. He became a suspect in the eyes of the U.S. because of his alleged ties to Al-Wafa, a Saudi foundation accused of terrorist activities, and because of his job at Dahabshiil Company, a Somali-based financial institution that allegedly sent money to and from customers in Pakistan. Sulaymon maintained that he had done nothing wrong and was picked up because U.S. forces were paying bounties for the capture of alleged enemies.


His detention included being held at military bases in Kandahar and Bagram in Afghanistan, before being transferred to Guantanamo, where he claims he was tortured. Upon his release, he told Agence France-Presse, “Guantánamo Bay is like hell on Earth….In the cold they let you sleep without a blanket. Some of the inmates face harsher torture, including with electricity and beating….Some of my colleagues in the prison lost their sight, some lost their limbs and others ended up mentally disturbed. I'm OK compared to them.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky


To Learn More:

U.S. Told to Declassify Certain Gitmo Filings (by Annie Youderian, Courthouse News Service)

Mohammed Sulaymon Barre v. Barack Obama (U.S. District Court, District of Columbia) (pdf)

Guantanamo 'Hell on Earth', Says Somali Detainee (by Mustafa Haji Abdinur, Agence France-Presse)

Reagan-Appointed Judge Blasts Obama for Abuse of Executive Power Regarding Guantánamo Prisoners (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)


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