Bar Criticizes Proposed POW Rules
NY Times
Published: April 30, 2007

WASHINGTON, April 29 (AP) — The Bush administration is trying to evade responsibility for problems at the Guantánamo Bay prison by falsely blaming defense lawyers, the New York City Bar says.

The president of the group leveled the criticism on Friday in a letter asking Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to abandon a Justice Department proposal to limit lawyers' access to the nearly 400 detainees at the prison.

In a court filing this month, the department said that the lawyers' use of mail to communicate with their clients had "enabled detainees' counsel to cause unrest on the base by informing detainees about terrorist attacks."

The mail system was "misused" to inform detainees about military operations in Iraq, activities of terrorist leaders, efforts to fight terrorism, a Hezbollah attack on Israel and abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison, the department said in the filing.

In his letter to Mr. Gonzales, the bar association's president, Barry M. Kamins, said, "This is an astonishing and disingenuous assertion."

"Blaming counsel for the hunger strikes and other unrest is a continuation of a disreputable and unwarranted smear campaign against counsel," the letter said.

A Justice Department spokesman, Erik Ablin, said the department was reviewing the letter.

The department wants to narrow the definition of "legal mail" and set a three-visit limit on face-to-face meetings once a detainee agrees at an initial meeting to let a lawyer represent him.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear arguments on the proposal on May 15.

The 137-year-old New York City Bar, with more than 23,000 members, is one of the oldest and largest lawyers' organizations in the country.

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