Navy Lawyer on Trial for Leaking Info

Matthew Diaz, a Navy lawyer, goes on trial to face charges of leaking the names of Guantanamo detainees to a civilian human rights attorney. Diaz could get 36 years in prison if convicted for leaking the classified information.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

A trial begins today in Norfolk, Virginia, for a Navy lawyer accused of giving the names of Guantanamo detainees to a civilian human rights attorney. Matthew Diaz could get 36 years in prison if convicted of leaking classified information.

NPR's Ari Shapiro is covering the trial. He joins us now from the Norfolk Naval Station. Ari, good morning.

ARI SHAPIRO: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Let's talk about the names at the heart of this case. Was this a deep dark secret?

SHAPIRO: Well, the names are all public now, but two years ago, they were not yet public. This is about 18 months before they were named public. And this woman who was an attorney of the Center for Constitutional Rights, her name is Barbara Olshansky, received an anonymous Valentine's Day package in the mail. And it contained this computer printout, about 39 pages, with a spreadsheet that had more than 500 names in Arabic. She suspected that maybe this was something she wasn't supposed to have.

So she contacted federal authorities. They began this investigation and traced it back to the man they believe sent this package, Matt Diaz, who goes to trial today for allegedly leaking classified information.

INSKEEP: And how's the government going to make its case?

SHAPIRO: Well, they've got sort of a combination of old school and new school investigative techniques. They're going to use a fingerprint analysis and a handwriting analyst to try to demonstrate that Matt Diaz was the guy who sent this package. That's the old school part of the investigation. But then, sort of the new school part is that they use what's known as a national security letter - you may remember this from the Patriot Act discussions - to demand emails that Matt Diaz sent over his AOL account. They sent a national security letter to AOL, AOL handed over Matt Diaz's documents.

And so we don't know exactly what's in those emails, but they may also play a role in this effort to prove that Matt Diaz leaked the classified information.

INSKEEP: Does Diaz admit that he was the one who sent this anonymous Valentine?

SHAPIRO: Officially, no, but we hear from the defense attorneys that they're probably not going to make much argument on that point. They're going to focus their argument really on two points. They're going to say, first of all, this information was not classified. They're going to say that in order for something to be classified, Pentagon rules say it has to be clearly labeled secret, classified, do not distribute, et cetera, et cetera. They're going to say this information was not labeled in that way.

And then the second, excuse me, the second thing they're going to say is that the specific crimes Diaz is accused of require an intent to harm the United States or an intent to help another country. They're going to say this was not Matt Diaz's intent, and in fact there's no way that giving these names to a human rights attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights could harm the United States.

INSKEEP: Ari, can I just ask why that pile of information was important in the first place? Why did it matter that some outsider would be able to learn exactly who was at Guantanamo, or at least the names of the people at Guantanamo?

SHAPIRO: Well, the Center for Constitutional Rights had actually been asking the Pentagon for these names. The Supreme Court had ruled that detainees were entitled to challenge their detention. They needed to know the names of the detainees so that they could represent them, and the Pentagon actually sent an email to various people, including Matt Diaz, who was stationed at Guantanamo Bay, saying just so you know, we're not going to give these names over to these folks at the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Matt Diaz allegedly decided to sort of freelance and send them the names on his own, you know, in hopes of then spurring these lawsuits on behalf of the attorneys who wanted to challenge their detention.

INSKEEP: So very briefly, what happens today at the trial that you're covering?

SHAPIRO: Well, we're going to hear from Barbara Olshansky, this key witness. She's a government witness and she's going to identify this document as the Valentine that she received. And under - sorry, under defense questioning, she's expected to say that she was also getting names of Guantanamo detainees from other sources. So the defense was going to hope to use that to show that these names were not as secret as the government alleges they were.

INSKEEP: Ari, thanks very much.

SHAPIRO: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Ari Shapiro at the Norfolk Naval Station.

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