NEW YORK (IPS/GIN) – As the impending new Democratic Party majority in Congress considers whether to revisit the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA), the administration of President George Bush is proposing still more restrictions on detainees in U.S. custody.

The government has proposed limiting contact between defense lawyers and detainees at Guantanamo Bay because it says detainees’ communications, such as news of world events, could incite the prisoners to violence.

The U.S. proposal to limit lawyers’ contacts with their Guantanamo clients was contained in a filing to a federal appeals court in Washington. The case deals with an Afghani detainee, but the government wants the restrictions to apply to other prisoners at Guantanamo. The prison camp currently holds some 430 detainees.


Among the more controversial provisions of the MCA, which Pres. Bush signed into law in October, is one that strips U.S. courts of jurisdiction to consider writs of habeas corpus filed by detainees classified as enemy combatants. The administration contends that the president may classify any person, even a U.S. citizen, as an enemy combatant.

But Sen. Chris Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, has already introduced legislation, called “The Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act,” that would restore habeas corpus rights to military detainees and make other amendments to the MCA. The amendments would also narrow the class of detainees identified as unlawful enemy combatants who are affected by the MCA’s habeas restriction.

The government says current rules have allowed detainees to receive books or articles about terrorist attacks in Iraq, London and Israel, as well as details of the prisoner abuse investigation at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. In a court filing, a military lawyer said security at Guantanamo Bay has been threatened by the introduction of a book on Abu Ghraib, a speech given at an Amnesty International conference about the war on terror, and other materials.

The government petition was filed this summer, but only recently discovered by the Boston Globe newspaper. It relates to the case of Haji Bismullah, an Afghan who is among several Guantanamo detainees represented by a New York-based advocacy group, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR). Currently, mail from lawyers is examined only for physical contraband. The proposed rules call for all of a detainee’s mail to be examined for forbidden information.

A CCR attorney said he suspects the proposal is aimed at controlling the information coming out of Guantanamo. Accounts from defense lawyers who have visited Guantanamo have cast doubt on government assertions that most detainees are hardened terrorists.

“With passage of the Military Commissions Act, human rights violations perpetrated by the Bush administration in the ‘war on terror’ have in effect been given the congressional stamp of approval. This raises serious questions about the U.S. government’s commitment to due process and the rule of law,” Mary Shaw of Amnesty International USA told IPS. “The ‘war on terror’ must not be used as an excuse to deny the basic human rights of any person.”