- August 2 - Granting the American people a victory over the secrecy of the Department
of Justice, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler today ordered the DOJ to
release the names of the detainees caught up in an anti-terrorism dragnet following
the events of last September. The Freedom of Information Act suit was filed by
23 civil rights and civil liberties organizations, including PFAWF, the Center
for National Security Studies, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic
Privacy Information Center, in December 2001. The Department of Justice had responded
to an earlier FOIA request with fragmentary, inadequate information, prompting
the suit. PFAWF is co-plaintiff and co-counsel on the suit.
"We're extremely pleased with the decision," said Mincberg. "It
requires the disclosure of information the Justice Department has held for far
"The American people have a right to know what the government is doing
in their name," said People For the American Way Foundation Legal Director
Elliot Mincberg. "There is no doubt that the investigations following September
11th were critical to national security. However, by sweeping an unknown number
of people into open-ended detentions without releasing so much as their names,
the government minimizes the role of oversight in protecting rights in America."
Judge Kessler's order requires the Department of Justice to release the identities
of the detainees with two exceptions: If a court order exists prohibiting the
release of the name, or if the detainee signs a statement indicating a wish to
withhold his or her name. The order also requires the Department of Justice to
release the names of the attorneys representing the detainees. The order upholds
the authority of the Department of Justice to withhold the dates and places of
arrest and detention.
"Our victory today demonstrates that the government cannot casually detain
hundreds of people -- often on routine immigration violations or as material witnesses
-- while keeping the American people in the dark about the detentions," said
The court order obliges the Justice Department to produce the names within
fifteen days. The order also terms the Justice Department's attempt to search
for documents concerning their disclosure policy as "inadequate." The
judge ordered the DOJ to conduct a new search for documents within 30 days in
response to plaintiffs' FOIA request.