APRIL 20, 2016
President Obama recently downplayed the importance of Hillary Clinton’s classified emails floating around in her private server and now a journalist is seizing the moment in an effort to unseal the secret court documents of an Al Qaeda leader involved in the 9/11 attacks. The operative’s name is Abu Zubaydah and he lives at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo, Cuba along with a few dozen of the world’s most dangerous terrorists.
In 2008 Zubaydah, a Saudi national, legally challenged his detention in federal court and all documents associated with the case—such as motions and court orders—have been sealed by the Obama administration. All these years later the motions filed by his “human rights” attorney haven’t even been ruled on and pretty much anything to do with the case has been kept from public view. “The systematic, open-ended denial of access to the court records in this proceeding plainly violates the public’s First Amendment right of access,” according to a lengthy motion filed this week in federal court on behalf of the journalist, who works at a mainstream newspaper. It adds that the government has failed to demonstrate that a proper basis exists to keep the records from going public.
Indeed, the government is simply asserting that all the information is “classified” as it often does when it refuses to make inconvenient material public. Just days ago President Obama seemed to admit that sometimes information is classified when it shouldn’t be. The commander-in-chief was downplaying the fact that his own secretary of state jeopardized national security by exclusively using a private, unprotected server to exchange classified information. “What I also know, because I handle a lot of classified information, is that there are — there’s classified, and then there’s classified,” Obama said during a nationally televised interview. “There’s stuff that is really top-secret, top-secret, and there’s stuff that is being presented to the president or the secretary of state, that you might not want on the transom, or going out over the wire, but is basically stuff that you could get in open-source.”
In the motion the reporter’s lawyer refers to Obama’s statement, writing that it amounts to a concession that some data is improperly classified. The court document also points out that “instances of classification made in excess of authority to conceal unlawful behavior or prevent embarrassment are well documented.” Zubaydah’s case in particular involves allegations that the government engaged in illegal actions and therefore has a motive to misuse classification to prevent embarrassment, the motion states. “Because preventing embarrassment and concealing violations of law are invalid reasons for classification, this Court should scrutinize the Government’s claims of the need for secrecy in this proceeding with extreme care, and release all records for which the Government has not met its constitutional burden,” the motion says.
Judicial Watch has uncovered government documents—once marked “Top Secret”—that reveal the U.S. obtained valuable intelligence after Zubaydah was subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques. In fact, Zubaydah identified Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) as the mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks that killed thousands of innocent Americans. Before Zubaydah identified KSM, also incarcerated at Gitmo, the 9/11 mastermind didn’t even appear in the intelligence community’s file of key Al Qaeda operatives or associates. KSM, in turn, provided valuable intel about another Al Qaeda jihadist, Majid Khan, who, in turn, identified a terrorist named Zubair who was subsequently captured. Zubair later provided information that led to the arrest of Al Qaeda’s South Asia leader.
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