White House appeals to top court on detainee data
By James Vicini
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday in an effort to limit the information it must provide when Guantanamo Bay prisoners challenge their continued captivity.
Administration lawyers appealed a ruling by a federal appeals court that would require the U.S. government to turn over virtually all its information on many detainees as part of the legal review.
The administration argued that it should be required to provide to the appeals court and to defense lawyers only the evidence that had been presented to the military tribunal that designated the prisoner an enemy combatant.
There are about 275 detainees at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, which was set up in January of 2002 to handle prisoners captured by the United States following the September 11 attacks.
Most of the prisoners have been held for years without being charged and many have complained of abuse. President George W. Bush has acknowledged the prison's damage to the U.S. image and said he would like to see it closed eventually.
More than 180 of the prisoners have filed challenges with the U.S. appeals court in Washington to the decisions by the military tribunals that they have been properly held as enemy combatants. They can bring the challenges under a 2005 U.S. law called the Detainee Treatment Act.
The administration filed the appeal as the Supreme Court considers two separate cases on whether the Guantanamo prisoners have the right to have U.S. federal judges hear their challenges to their confinement.
Administration lawyers said the new appeal should be held for a decision in the other two cases and then it can be appropriately disposed of by the Supreme Court in light of that decision.
As an alternative to the "better course" of holding the appeal, the lawyers said the Supreme Court should agree to hear and decide the appeal during its current term which lasts through June.
(Reporting by James Vicini, Editing by Eric Walsh)