Judge: Gitmo Detainee Can Question KSM Despite “Vehement” Opposition by Obama Administration

By Gorman Gorman

Aug 21, 2009 12:39pm

In their law offices at Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, Matthew Handley and his colleagues are preparing a list of questions to ask terrorist mastermind Khalid Shaykh Mohammed, the Obama administration having lost its battle to prevent the attorneys from doing so.

Guantanamo detainee Abdul Raheem Ghulam Rabbani, represented by Handley et al, is accused by the Obama administration of having worked for KSM, thus Rabbani's legal team sought to question KSM about that allegation.

The Obama administration "vehemently opposes" that request, wrote U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina, an appointed of former President Bill Clinton, in his ruling which was issued at the end of July but was declassified and made public on Thursday, as the Politico's Josh Gerstein was first to report.

Wrote Urbina: "The government argues that '(b)ecause of KSM's involvement" in a special CIA program that interrogates top terrorist leaders to prevent future attacks, "'it is likely that he possesses, and will be able to transmit through any discovery responses, information that is classified at higher security levels' and that 'it is impossible to know what he may reveal in his responses…'"

Even written responses could implicate "vital national security concerns," the Obama administration told the judge.

Nonetheless, Judge Urbina ruled that Rabbani and his attorneys "may submit a list of narrowly tailored interrogatories to be answered by KSM," ones focused "exclusively on the relationship between KSM and the petitioner prior to their apprehension and the petitioner's role, if any, in facilitating operations on behalf of Al-Qaida."

The specific allegations about what Rabbani did for KSM are classified.

The White House and Justice Department declined to comment.

"KSM's knowledge of our client is relevant to the core of our case," Handley told ABC News, saying that his team was "pleased" by Judge Urbina's order. "I don't think that we were certain by any means which way he was going to come down."

Handley said the Obama administration fought the decision, though he wasn't surprised.

"Even things you'd think they wouldn't fight on, they have," he said. "It's been our experience that information is rarely volunteered by the government regardless of which administration it is."

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