Despite being made public by WikiLeaks this week, the department's Court Security Office said the assessments of more than 700 detainees who walked through the gates at Guantanamo Bay remain legally classified and must be treated as such, The New York Times reported.
Since the lawyers have security clearances, they are required to treat the files "in accordance with all relevant security precautions and safeguards," such as handling them only in secure government locations, the notice said.
Joseph Margulies, a law professor representing Abu Zubaydah, the accused terrorist facilitator who claims he was waterboarded by CIA interrogators, told the Times he couldn't comment on the newly disclosed assessment of his client the Times posted on its Web site.
"Everyone else can talk about it," Margulies said in an article published Tuesday. "I can't talk about it."
The burgeoning number of public-but-classified documents has stymied officials and led to a number of responses from government agencies and those who work with them, the Times said, including some federal employees being told viewing the Wikileaks-leaked documents on an unclassified computer could violate security rules governing their employments. Capitol Hill researchers said they cannot comment or report on the leaked classified documents when asked by members of Congress.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told reporters Tuesday he considered the leaking of the classified detainee assessments prepared during President George W. Bush's administration, to be "deplorable." He said the Obama administration would not make public its assessments of the 240 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay when it took office in 2009.
The new files "involve a whole variety of information gleaned from a wide assortment of sources, some of which are classified," Holder said. "That being the case, I would be concerned about putting out information that was incomplete."
Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd told the Times the department was trying to address questions asked by lawyers representing the detainees about restrictions on using the leaked documents.
"We're working through these issues right now," Boyd said. "We simply want to ensure that any information released by WikiLeaks is handled properly."