U.S. backs off restrictions on Gitmo lawyer visits

Published May 12, 2007

WASHINGTON - After criticism it was undermining fair trials, the Bush administration dropped its plan to limit the number of times defense attorneys could visit terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

The government had sought to limit lawyers to three visits and curb access to detainees' mail in the name of maintaining security at the U.S. military facility in Cuba. But in a motion filed Friday at the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia Circuit, the Justice Department said the limits on lawyer visits were no longer necessary.

"Based on a current evaluation of resources and needs at Guantanamo, the (government) has decided this provision is no longer warranted, " Justice Department attorneys wrote.

The government said it would allow defense counsel to send mail to detainees once they establish and prove an attorney-client relationship. Initially, the Justice Department charged that the lawyer-detainee mail system "was misused" to inform detainees about terrorist activities.