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District Court Orders DOJ To Disclose Names of 9/11 Detainees

In the decision [PDF], U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler directed the Justice Department to disclose, within 15 days, the names of individuals detained in connection with its September 11 terrorist investigation, as well as the names of their attorneys. Detainees desiring confidentiality of their identities could file statements requesting non-disclosure. However, the Court found that the Justice Department properly withheld all other detention information, such as dates and locations of arrest, under the law enforcement and personal privacy exemptions to the FOIA. The decision marked a significant defeat for government secrecy in the wake of the terrorist attacks. EPIC joined with a coalition of other groups in seeking the disclosure of the information under the FOIA. (August 2, 2002)

Rights Groups Seek to Question Government Officials on "Incomplete and Inaccurate" Detainee Records.

Saying that the government's response to a legal request for basic information on individuals arrested and detained after Sept. 11 is "incomplete and inaccurate," a coalition of rights groups is now seeking further information about the often contradictory information contained in documents provided to them earlier this month. The coalition of EPIC and 16 other civil rights and human rights groups filed a federal lawsuit on December 5, 2001, challenging the government's refusal to disclose details of more than 1000 detentions and arrests that have been made in the post-September 11 investigation pursuant to plaintiffs' requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). (December 5, 2001)

Further, the groups said in legal papers that "there are credible indications that the government itself has determined that most of the detainees are not connected to terrorism" and that the Attorney General no longer has any national security rationale for withholding information about these individuals.

For instance, of the 725 detainees listed in heavily redacted papers the groups received on Jan. 11, 2002, 344 are listed separately under the caption 'INACTIVE CASES,' which would seem to indicate that these individuals have been cleared of any link to terrorism.

In addition, the groups seek to learn just how many of the detainees have been released from custody or cleared for voluntary departure, a status that would also indicate they have been cleared of links to terrorism and thus weaken the government's argument for secrecy.

The rights groups also expressed concern that despite a government claim that individuals in detention have been provided access to lawyers, "there have been credible reports about the severe obstacles that the government has placed in the way of detainees seeking to contact legal counsel."

It is important to have these questions answered, the groups said, before they reply to the government's legal bid to dismiss their FOIA lawsuit. The government's answer to this request is due on January 29, 2002.

The case was filed before Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Civil Action No. 01-2500, by 16 organizations, including EPIC, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Center for National Security Studies. A complete list of organizational plaintiffs can be found in the court papers online.

A complete archive of this case is available on the Center for National Security Studies website.

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