NYCLU/New York Civil Liberties Union
Capital Region Chapter
90 State Street, Suite 518
Albany, New York 12207
(518) 436-8594 (518) 426-9341 (f)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Melanie Trimble, (518) 436-8594
March 8, 2007
The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) strongly objects to the excessive secrecy surrounding crucial issues in the trial of Mr. Hossein and Mr. Aref.
The right to trial in an open public forum is central to the American system of justice. Particularly in cases of great importance to the community, the public has a right to know the facts that led the government to prosecute, and the facts that lead to conviction. All defendants have a right to know what information is used against them so they can prepare an adequate defense. Secret evidence and secret judicial opinions have no place in this democracy.
Aref and Hossein believed that they were the targets of President Bush’s illegal National Security Agency surveillance program, and challenged their prosecution on that ground. In its ruling against them, the court issued a secret opinion that relied on secret evidence submitted by the government. No one knows why the judge accepted the government’s arguments and allowed the prosecution to continue, and no one knows the government’s answer to the question of whether illegal surveillance occurred. This level of secrecy is unprecedented and contrary to the principles of open deliberation and public access to judicial proceedings.
The NYCLU tried to intervene in the case to open the court’s opinion and the government’s response papers to public scrutiny, but the court refused to allow it. We intend to appeal the court’s decision to keep its decision and the substance of the government’s response under lock and key, and will continue our efforts to get answers to the question of whether illegal surveillance was involved in this case.
Melanie Trimble, Executive Director, NYCLU-CRC