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Lawyers Guild seeks information
on rules of engagement in Iraq

Information on journalist's shooting sought

Journalist Giuliana Sgrena

By Julia Cheever, Bay City News Service

March 27, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - An attorney group's bid for information about shots fired by U.S. soldiers at an Italian journalist in Iraq in 2005 was taken under submission by a federal judge in San Francisco after an hour-long hearing yesterday.

U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel did not say when she will rule on the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the National Lawyers Guild's Military Law Task Force against the U.S. Department of Defense.

The guild task force is seeking disclosure of the rules of engagement that applied to the 2005 shooting of journalist Giuliana Sgrena as well as the siege of Falluja in Iraq in 2004.

Sgrena and a driver were wounded and an Italian intelligence agent, Nicola Calipari, was killed by the gunfire as they drove to Baghdad International Airport on March 4, 2005. Calipari had rescued Sgrena from a month-long kidnapping.

The guild group says it wants the information about that incident and the Falluja siege for an article about the military in Iraq.

Thus far, the defense department has given it a partial version of a military report that concluded the soldiers in the Sgrena incident followed the rules of engagement and should not be disciplined.

The department also provided a list of five documents found in military files that are related to the rules of engagement, but said the documents must be kept secret for security reasons.

Both sides in the case have asked Patel for a summary judgment. The government, saying it has done an adequate search under the information law and that disclosing any more information would endanger soldiers, has asked for dismissal of the lawsuit.

The guild has asked Patel to order the release of the five withheld documents or at least to review them privately and decide whether parts of them can be released.

Justice Department attorney Edward White told the judge, "Releasing these documents would give our adversaries a blueprint."

Under questioning from Patel, White said he didn't know whether the withheld documents described standing rules or operation-specific rules and whether they specifically covered the time of the 2005 shooting and the 2004 siege.

The dates of two of the documents are given in the government list as April 2006, later than the two events.

White told the judge, "My understanding is that the standing rules don't necessarily change with time" and the later date "doesn't mean they weren't in effect" at the time of the incidents.

Patel said, "It seems to be almost preposterous that you would not have the rules of engagement for all these periods of time and that you wouldn't have them in your files."

Lawyers guild attorney Colleen Flynn said it appeared "especially unreasonable" that government attorneys "can't say whether the documents being withheld are responsive to our request."

Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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