- WASHINGTON -- In an extraordinary
request, the Bush administration asked the Supreme Court on Monday to let
it keep its arguments secret in a case involving an immigrant's challenge
of his treatment after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
- Mohamed Kamel Bellahouel wants the high court to consider
whether the government acted improperly by secretly jailing him after the
attacks and keeping his court fight private. He is supported by more than
20 journalism organizations and media companies.
- Solicitor General Theodore Olson told justices in a one-paragraph
filing that ''this matter pertains to information that is required to be
kept under seal.''
- Justices sometimes are asked to keep parts of cases private
because of information sensitive for national security or other reasons,
but it's unusual for an entire filing to be kept secret.
- Lucy A. Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters
Committee for Freedom of the Press, said she was disappointed by the government's
- ''The idea that there is nothing that could be filed
publicly is really ridiculous,'' she said. ''It just emphasizes our point
that we're living in frightening times. People can be arrested, thrown
in jail and have secret court proceedings, and we know absolutely nothing
- The court will decide later whether to consider Bellahouel's
appeal and at the same time whether to allow the secret filing. Justices
will be able to review the government's private arguments.
- Bellahouel, an Algerian who worked as a waiter in South
Florida, came under FBI scrutiny because hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan
al Shehhi dined where he worked in the weeks before the Sept. 11, 2001,
- He was among hundreds of foreigners rounded up after
the hijackings. The government has refused to release names and information
about the detentions, arguing that a blanket secrecy policy is needed to
protect national security.
- The Supreme Court rejected an appeal last year from newspapers
that sought information about the detentions. Bellahouel's case asks the
justices to consider whether the government violated the nation's long
tradition of open court proceedings.
- Lower courts kept private the existence of the case.
Olson's filing deletes the name of the appeals court that ruled against
- Bellahouel, who is free on $10,000 bond, is known in
court papers only as M.K.B. Because of a mistake at the 11th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals in Atlanta, the M.K.B. records were briefly made public.