AIPAC case "silent witness" ruling reconsidered

Just in case you thought the Libby trial was a uniquely scary reenactment of the old Star Chamber, the trial of two former AIPAC officials is coming up. Little is being reported, although AT has been warning of the likely pernicious consequences for some time.  Secrecy News, which tracks such things, has some information today:
"The forthcoming trial of two former officials of the AmericanIsrael Public Affairs Committee who are charged with mishandling classified information "won't be a closed trial," said Judge T.S. Ellis III at a March 15 hearing, notwithstanding some"hyperbolic" suggestions to the contrary.

But there is open question as to whether the prosecution mayemploy something called the "silent witness" rule.  That refersto the practice of providing evidence to the defense and to thejury, but withholding it from the public.

Such a procedure would amount to "closing" the courtroom ineffect, the defense argued, "because, once inside, the public and press would not, in any meaningful sense, actually hear thecentral evidence in the case."

The government proposal is "unworkable, prejudicial and fundamentally unfair," the defense stated in a March 21 motion.  It "will not only make meaningful cross-examination of critical government witnesses impossible, but will send a continuous message to the jury that the information at issue is [national defense information] deserving of protection -- the very issue that the jury must itself decide."

"I have to resolve this significant issue about whether this is really constitutional," Judge Ellis said on March 15.  He ordered additional briefs on the subject from both parties.  The defense brief, filed March 21, is here.

Just in case you thought the Libby trial was a uniquely scary reenactment of the old Star Chamber, the trial of two former AIPAC officials is coming up. Little is being reported, although AT has been warning of the likely pernicious consequences for some time.  Secrecy News, which tracks such things, has some information today:
"The forthcoming trial of two former officials of the AmericanIsrael Public Affairs Committee who are charged with mishandling classified information "won't be a closed trial," said Judge T.S. Ellis III at a March 15 hearing, notwithstanding some"hyperbolic" suggestions to the contrary.

But there is open question as to whether the prosecution mayemploy something called the "silent witness" rule.  That refersto the practice of providing evidence to the defense and to thejury, but withholding it from the public.

Such a procedure would amount to "closing" the courtroom ineffect, the defense argued, "because, once inside, the public and press would not, in any meaningful sense, actually hear thecentral evidence in the case."

The government proposal is "unworkable, prejudicial and fundamentally unfair," the defense stated in a March 21 motion.  It "will not only make meaningful cross-examination of critical government witnesses impossible, but will send a continuous message to the jury that the information at issue is [national defense information] deserving of protection -- the very issue that the jury must itself decide."

"I have to resolve this significant issue about whether this is really constitutional," Judge Ellis said on March 15.  He ordered additional briefs on the subject from both parties.  The defense brief, filed March 21, is here.