Dhiab v. Trump, No. 16-5011

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
Writing for the CourtRandolph, Senior Circuit Judge
Citation852 F.3d 1087
Parties Jihad DHIAB, Detainee, Guantanamo Bay Naval Station And Shaker Aamer, as Next Friend of Jihad Dhiab, Appellees v. Donald J. TRUMP, President of the United States, et al., Appellants Hearst Corporation, et al., Appellees
Docket NumberNo. 16-5011,C/w 16-5012
Decision Date31 March 2017

852 F.3d 1087

Jihad DHIAB, Detainee, Guantanamo Bay Naval Station And Shaker Aamer, as Next Friend of Jihad Dhiab, Appellees
v.
Donald J. TRUMP, President of the United States, et al., Appellants

Hearst Corporation, et al., Appellees

No. 16-5011
C/w 16-5012

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit.

Argued September 8, 2016
Decided March 31, 2017


Catherine H. Dorsey, Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, argued the cause for respondents-appellants/cross-appellees (US). With her on the briefs were Benjamin C. Mizer, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, and Matthew M. Collette, Attorney.

David A. Schulz, New York, NY, argued the cause for intervenors-appellees/cross-appellants. With him on the briefs was Matthew L. Schafer, Washington, DC.

Rachel B. Levinson-Waldman was on the brief for amici curiae Brennan Center for Justice and Electronic Frontier Foundation in support of intervenors-appellees.

Hina Shamsi and Arthur B. Spitzer, Washington, DC, were on the brief for amici curiae American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation's Capital and The Reporters Committee for Freedom of The Press in support of intervenors-appellees/cross-appellants.

Before: Rogers, Circuit Judge, and Williams and Randolph, Senior Circuit Judges.

Opinion for the Court filed by Senior Circuit Judge Randolph, with whom Circuit Judge Rogers and Senior Circuit Judge Williams join except as to Part II.

Opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment filed by Circuit Judge Rogers.

Opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment filed by Senior Circuit Judge Williams .

852 F.3d 1089

Randolph, Senior Circuit Judge:

The government's appeal, and the intervenors' cross-appeal, are from the district court's orders releasing video recordings made at the United States Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The recordings are of military personnel removing a detainee from his cell, transporting him to a medical unit, and force-feeding him to keep him alive while he was on a hunger strike.

The government classified these recordings as "SECRET" because disclosing them could damage the national security. The district court decided that under the Constitution the public has a right to view the recordings because the detainee's attorney filed some of them under seal, at which point the recordings became part of the court's record. The government's appeal is on the ground that the public has no such constitutional right. The intervenors' cross-appeal is on the ground that several categories of redactions the court approved prior to public release were too extensive.

I.

The case began when Abu Wa'el (Jihad) Dhiab filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus to prevent the government from force-feeding him. The district court denied Dhiab's motion for a preliminary injunction, finding that it lacked habeas jurisdiction to correct conditions of confinement. Dhiab v. Obama , 952 F.Supp.2d 154, 155 (D.D.C. 2013). On appeal, a panel of this court held that a Guantanamo habeas petitioner may seek not only relief from confinement, the traditional remedy in habeas corpus, but also an injunction to alter the conditions of his confinement. Aamer v. Obama , 742 F.3d 1023, 1033 (D.C. Cir. 2014).1

On remand, Dhiab moved again for a preliminary injunction, this time challenging particular government force-feeding practices. He also filed an emergency application for a temporary restraining order. The district court denied both motions. Dhiab v. Obama , 74 F.Supp.3d 16, 19 (D.D.C. 2014) ; Order, Dhiab v. Obama , No. 05-01457 (GK), (D.D.C. June 16, 2014), ECF No. 254. In considering Dhiab's motions, the district court ordered the government to provide Dhiab's attorney, who had been given a security clearance, copies of the video recordings, the existence of which the government had disclosed. After the government complied with the order, to which it objected, Dhiab's attorney filed some of the recordings under seal.2

The government recorded Dhiab's removal from his cell and his force-feeding in order to train military guards about how to handle detainees in such circumstances. In classifying each recording as "SECRET," we shall assume that the government complied with Executive Order No. 13,526, 75 Fed. Reg. 707 (Dec. 29, 2009).3 This Executive Order, and those of past Presidents, see

852 F.3d 1090

Dep't of Navy v. Egan , 484 U.S. 518, 527-28, 108 S.Ct. 818, 98 L.Ed.2d 918 (1988), specified three levels of classified national security information: "TOP SECRET," "SECRET," and "CONFIDENTIAL." The "SECRET" classification is reserved for "information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage to the national security" of the United States. Exec. Order No. 13,526 § 1.2(a)(2). Unauthorized disclosure of such classified information can be a federal criminal offense. See, e.g. , 18 U.S.C. § 793.

Press organizations—sixteen of them—sought to intervene in Dhiab's habeas case and asked the district court to unseal the recordings Dhiab's attorney had filed. Their motion asserted that under the First Amendment, and common law, the public had a right to see these recordings because the recordings had become part of the record of Dhiab's habeas corpus proceeding. The government did not oppose their intervention motion but it did oppose the organizations' motion to unseal the recordings. In support of its opposition, the government filed declarations from military officers explaining how release of the classified recordings would threaten national security.

In October 2014, the district court granted the organizations' motion to intervene and their motion to unseal the recordings, subject to further proceedings to determine what portions of the recordings should be redacted to protect information identifying government personnel. Dhiab v. Obama , 70 F.Supp.3d 486, 501 (D.D.C. 2014).

In December of that year, the government released Dhiab from Guantanamo and transferred him to the control of the government of Uruguay, thus rendering his habeas petition moot.

Our court nevertheless heard the government's appeal from the district court's October 2014 order unsealing the recordings and determined that we lacked appellate jurisdiction. We lacked appellate jurisdiction because the district court's ruling was not an appealable final order or an appealable collateral order in light of further proceedings the court had scheduled. Dhiab v. Obama , 787 F.3d 563, 565-66 (D.C. Cir. 2015). We encouraged the district court on remand to consider the government's additional declarations, filed in support of a stay of the unsealing order pending that appeal. Id. at 567. These new declarations "set out the harm associated with release of the videotapes in considerably more detail" than the earlier ones. Id.

When the case returned to the district court, it denied the government's motion for reconsideration and, over the government's objection, ordered the recordings4 released after the government redacted identifying information such as faces, voices and names of government personnel. Dhiab v. Obama , 141 F.Supp.3d 23, 28-29 (D.D.C. 2015). By then Dhiab was no longer at Guantanamo.5 Even so, the intervenors persisted in their objections to some of the redactions and sought reinstatement of some of the deleted audio portions of the recordings or a transcript and subtitles.6 The district court denied

852 F.3d 1091

the intervenors' motion regarding redaction, Dhiab v. Obama , 151 F.Supp.3d 28, 29 (D.D.C. 2015), ordered the redacted recordings unsealed on or before January 11, 2016, and granted a stay pending this appeal and cross-appeal, Order, Dhiab v. Obama , No. 05-01457 (GK), (D.D.C. Jan. 4, 2016), ECF No. 418.

II.

The intervenors' claim that the Constitution requires this national security information, properly classified as "SECRET," to be divulged to the world because a lawyer representing a Guantanamo detainee filed some of the recordings under seal in his client's now-moot habeas corpus action is untenable. It is important to bear in mind that the Constitution gives "the President as head of the Executive Branch and as Commander in Chief" the "authority to classify and control access to information bearing on national security...." Egan , 484 U.S. at 527, 108 S.Ct. 818.

Through the years our government has been steadfast in protecting information that, if made public, would jeopardize the security of the United States. Statutes, longstanding regulations, comprehensive Executive Orders, rules of the Chief Justice of the United States, local rules and practices of the federal courts—and more, enforce and support the President's constitutional duty to prevent our government's secret information from seeing the light of day, in judicial proceedings or otherwise.

Here the government established that the recordings of Dhiab were properly classified as "SECRET." The district court did not rule otherwise, and the intervenors did not claim, let alone show, that the classifications were improper. The government submitted declarations, about which more later, demonstrating the harm that would result from...

To continue reading

Request your trial
10 practice notes
  • Courthouse News Serv. v. Planet, Nos. 16-55977
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • January 17, 2020
    ...circuit to consider the issue has uniformly concluded that the right applies to both civil and criminal proceedings. See Dhiab v. Trump , 852 F.3d 1087, 1099 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (Rogers, J., concurring in part and concurring in the judgment) (collecting cases).3 This nationwide consensus accor......
  • United States v. Tsarnaev, No. 16-6001
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • July 31, 2020
    ...of rules for preserving confidentiality of classified information and for allowing discrete use of such information. See Dhiab v. Trump, 852 F.3d 1087, 1092 n.9 (D.C. Cir. 2017). That Act defines "[c]lassified information," in relevant part, as "any information or material that has been det......
  • Index Newspapers LLC v. U.S. Marshals Serv., No. 20-35739
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • October 9, 2020
    ...where the government's interest was arguably less immediate and the restriction on access was equally broad. Cf., e.g. , Dhiab v. Trump , 852 F.3d 1087, 1095 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (government's interest in preventing future threats to military operations would justify closure of habeas proceedin......
  • W. Va. Reg'l Jail & Corr. Facility Auth. v. Marcum, No. 15–1174
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • April 26, 2017
    ...identifying government personnel. The government eventually appealed the disclosure order in the restyled opinion of Dhiab v. Trump, 852 F.3d 1087 (D.C. Cir. 2017). The appellate court reversed the district court's disclosure order for reasons that included the following:[T]he intervenors a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 cases
  • Courthouse News Serv. v. Planet, Nos. 16-55977
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • January 17, 2020
    ...circuit to consider the issue has uniformly concluded that the right applies to both civil and criminal proceedings. See Dhiab v. Trump , 852 F.3d 1087, 1099 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (Rogers, J., concurring in part and concurring in the judgment) (collecting cases).3 This nationwide consensus accor......
  • United States v. Tsarnaev, No. 16-6001
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • July 31, 2020
    ...of rules for preserving confidentiality of classified information and for allowing discrete use of such information. See Dhiab v. Trump, 852 F.3d 1087, 1092 n.9 (D.C. Cir. 2017). That Act defines "[c]lassified information," in relevant part, as "any information or material that has been det......
  • Index Newspapers LLC v. U.S. Marshals Serv., No. 20-35739
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
    • October 9, 2020
    ...where the government's interest was arguably less immediate and the restriction on access was equally broad. Cf., e.g. , Dhiab v. Trump , 852 F.3d 1087, 1095 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (government's interest in preventing future threats to military operations would justify closure of habeas proceedin......
  • W. Va. Reg'l Jail & Corr. Facility Auth. v. Marcum, No. 15–1174
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • April 26, 2017
    ...identifying government personnel. The government eventually appealed the disclosure order in the restyled opinion of Dhiab v. Trump, 852 F.3d 1087 (D.C. Cir. 2017). The appellate court reversed the district court's disclosure order for reasons that included the following:[T]he intervenors a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT