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
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
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."
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