Court Rules U.S. Must Reveal Detainee Identities
U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler wrote in a 45-page opinion, ”The federal government’s power to arrest and hold individuals is an extraordinary one.”
“Here, the government has used its arrest power to detain individuals as part of an investigation that is widespread in its scope and secrecy.”
The Justice Dept. has detained “well over 1,000″ people in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks, according to court documents. Reportedly many of them have already been deported. In June, officials said at least 147 people were still in custody, including 74 on immigration charges, the Associated Press reported.
Justice Dept. officials had argued releasing such information about detainees could allow terrorists to “map the progress of the investigation, and … develop the means to impede it.”
Detainees considered material witnesses in the U.S. terror investigation and those who do not wish to be identified would be exempt from the order, Kessler said.
Kessler also ruled the government must release the names of lawyers representing the detainees. The judge denied, however, requests that the Justice Dept. release the dates of detainees arrest, detention and release and the location where each detainee is held.
The ruling comes after more than 20 civil rights, human rights and civil liberties groups sued the Justice Dept, claiming the Freedom of Information Act barred the government from holding prisoners in secret.
Among the groups suing for detainee information were the American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for National Security Studies, Human Rights Watch and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.