from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2002, Issue No. 71
August 2, 2002


In a ringing affirmation that the Government must comply with the law even in times of crisis, a federal court today ordered the Bush Administration to disclose the names of most of the individuals who have been detained in connection with the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The landmark decision came in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the Center for National Security Studies, the ACLU, and twenty-one other public interest and advocacy organizations.

Judge Gladys Kessler directed that "the Government must release the identities of all individuals detained during the course of its September 11 investigation" (excepting those held as material witnesses), as well as the identities of their legal counsel. The Court said that the Government justifiably withheld information concerning the dates and locations of arrest, detention and release.

"The federal Government's power to arrest and hold individuals is an extraordinary one," Judge Kessler wrote. "Here, the Government has used its arrest power to detain individuals as part of an investigation that is widespread in its scope and secrecy."

"Plaintiffs voice grave concerns about the abuse of this power, ranging from denial of the right to counsel and consular notification, to discriminatory and arbitrary detention, to the failure to file charges for prolonged periods of detention, to mistreatment of detainees in custody," she continued.

"Unquestionably, the public's interest in learning the identities of those arrested and detained is essential to verifying whether the Government is operating within the bounds of the law," she stated.

The ruling discussed at length the Government's legal, security and privacy arguments against disclosure, and found them all wanting. The Government now has 15 days to comply with the Court's order, or to seek an appeal.

See the August 2 Memorandum Opinion in Center for National Security Studies et al v. United States Department of Justice here:


Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.

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