Constitutional Law

Welcome to the 'Parallel Universe': Opinion Releasing Gitmo Detainee Was Extensively Rewritten

Legal observers are agog over two very different versions of a ruling in a habeas corpus case ordering the release of a Guantanamo Bay detainee who was held nearly eight years without being charged.

In the initial version provided by Pro Publica, which was briefly made available online in March, U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy Jr. harshly criticizes the weak government case against Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman

A second version of the District of Columbia opinion, released in mid-April, which is also provided by Pro Publica, is extensively rewritten, with some eght pages of material removed, the National Law Journal reported this week.

Explanations differ about exactly what happened: Apparently, the first version was accidentally cleared for public release by the Department of Justice before redactions intended to omit national security information were completed. But what prompted Kennedy to rewrite the opinion isn’t certain.

While there may well have been a legitimate national security concern on Kennedy’s part, “that concern then inspired him to participate in the creation of a parallel universe that fools everyone except a small circle of judges,” says Stephen Gillers of New York University School of Law. “We don’t allow the justice system to create false impressions.”

Another Pro Publica document offers a line-by-line comparison of the differing versions.

Related coverage:

National Law Journal: “DOJ’s troubled case against Uthman”

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