US judge outlaws secret arrests

BBC, Aug. 3, 2002
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/2169395.stm

A US federal judge has ordered the government to disclose within 15 days the names of suspects being held in connection with the 11 September attacks.

District Judge Gladys Kessler allowed for only two exceptions – if the detainee is a material witness to a terror investigation or if the person being held does not want to be identified.

American civil rights groups have welcomed the ruling – one said it was a vindication of basic freedoms.
The US Justice Department says it will review the ruling, but the BBC’s Rob Watson in Washington says there is no doubt this is an embarrassing defeat for the government.

It had argued that releasing the names would reveal too much to terror groups like Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network.

In her ruling, the judge said that while the court understood the government’s first priority in a time of crisis was the security of its citizens, it was the obligation of the judicial branch to ensure the government was operating constitutionally.
[…]

The Justice Department has detained nearly 1,200 people in relation to its 11 September investigation, according to officials.

Most of them have since been deported, but the government disclosed in June that at least 147 people were still being held, including 74 on charges involving immigration infractions.

The ruling does not affect detainees at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who are beyond the jurisdiction of US courts.

The ruling is a victory for more than 20 civil liberties groups, which challenged the government’s policy of secret arrests under the Freedom of Information Act.

“The decision is a complete repudiation of the attorney general’s policy of rounding up hundreds of individuals in secrecy,” said Kate Martin, of the Center for National Security Studies.

“The opinion is a vindication of the basic principle that you can’t have secret arrests, that secret arrests are undemocratic.”

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This post was last updated: Monday, November 30, -0001 at 12:00 AM, Central European Time (CET)