The two sides in the first court review of military decisions to keep detainees confined at Guatanamo Bay, Cuba, continued this week to dispute how rapidly that first test case should move in the D.C. Circuit Court. Lawyers for the detainee involved, Saifullah Paracha, on Tuesday urged the Court to deny a Justice Department request for more time to file documents seeking to justify Paracha’s continued imprisonment. On Wednesday, the Department responded, arguing that it simply cannot meet a court-imposed filing deadline.

The case involving Paracha, a Pakistani national who holds a permanent U.S. resident visa and plans to return to the U.S., is the initial test of whether the Circuit Court will seriously second-guess the actions of Combatant Status Review Tribunals in deciding to keep prisoners at Guantanamo. (The case is Paracha v. Gates, 06-1038).

His lawyers reminded the Circuit Court that he has been held at Guantanamo for three full years, and still may have to wait another year for that Court to decide whether the military has properly classified him as an “enemy combatant.” If the case ultimately goes to the Supreme Court, his lawyers said, his fate may not be determined until sometime in 2009. They said the Justice Department has a desire for “unending delay,” arguing that it was “high time to put Paracha’s convenience above that of the government.”

Answering, the Justice Department said that it will file on Friday sworn statements from the directors of the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, as well as the No. 2 civilian official at the Pentagon, demonstrating the “extraordinary burdens and the national security risks” if the Pentagon has to submit a broad file of information about Paracha by the court-imposed deadline of Sept. 13. The deadline, it said, “is simply not feasible.” It asked for at least a 30-day postponement.

The statements supporting its complaint will be filed on Friday, as part of the Justice Department’s request that the Circuit Court rehear en banc the decision enlarging the Pentagon’s duty to supply combatant status information. That decision came in the combined cases of Bismullah v. Gates (06-1197) and Parhat v. Gates (06-1397)

The Paracha opposition to any further delay can be found here, and the Justice Department answer to that is here..

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