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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Shutting Out Defense Lawyers Through Secret Procedures

From washingtonpost.com: In Chicago, attorneys for a man accused of serving as a "sleeper agent" in the U.S. for Saddam Hussein's regime, have asked a federal judge whether the National Security Agency eavesdropped on his phone conversations. Prosecutors say a Justice Department Representative will answer the question, but only in the judge's chambers with defense attorneys not allowed.

Such secret procedures, once rare in American courts, have become more common since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Prosecutors say they need secrecy to protect undercover agents, informants, and witnesses from terrorist reprisals and to keep critical information pipelines from being shut down.

But defense attorneys say the right of defendants to confront their accusers, guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, is being worn away under the guise of national security.

"It's critical to the functioning of a healthy democracy that people know what the government is doing in their name," said Georgetown University Law Center Crim Prof David ColeMore. . . [Mark Godsey]

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