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'20th Hijacker' Images Properly Withheld by US, Court Says

Photographs and videos of Mohammed al-Qahtani, a Saudi national believed to be the intended “20th hijacker” in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, were properly withheld by the U.S., a judge in Manhattan ruled.

The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights sued the government last year under the Freedom of Information Act seeking to make public the images of al-Qahtani, who was denied entry to the U.S. a month before the attacks. He was captured by Pakistani forces in December 2001 and turned over to the U.S., and has been held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since 2002.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled that the photos and videos of al-Qahtani were properly classified by the Defense Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation as being in the interest of national security.

“We find it both logical and plausible that the disclosure of any portion of the withheld videotapes and photographs could reasonably be expected to harm national security,” Buchwald wrote in an order dated yesterday. The Central Intelligence Agency “appropriately declined to confirm or deny the existence of responsive records,” the judge said.

The case is Center for Constitutional Rights v. Department of Defense, 12-cv-00135, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).


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Photographs and videos of Mohammed al-Qahtani, a Saudi national believed to be the intended "20th hijacker" in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, were properly withheld by the U.S., a judge in Manhattan ruled. The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights sued the...
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