Appeals Court Upholds Arrest and Detention Secrecy

Despite Recent Report on Detainee Abuses, Panel Authorizes Secret Arrests

On June 17th, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a ruling on the case of CNSS v. U.S. Department of Justice. The decision ruled that the Justice Department can withhold virtually all information about the arrest and detention of more than 1,000 people after the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks under exemptions to the federal Freedom of Information Act. People For the American Way Foundation joined 23 civil liberties organizations including CNSS, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Privacy Information Center in filing suit for release of information about detainees captured following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. PFAWF is also co-counsel in the suit. Following is the statement of PFAWF President Ralph G. Neas.

“We’re very disappointed with this decision. We’ve said again and again that the American people have a right to know what the government is doing in their name. Instead, this ruling gives amazing deference to the Justice Department, and cripples the critical role of oversight in protecting rights in America.

“This ruling allows the Department of Justice to bury these secret arrests even deeper. Now the public is denied access even to the names of attorneys representing detainees. There is no way abuses — like those chronicled in the report by the Justice Department inspector general — can be fully investigated and exposed if every aspect of these arrests is kept in the dark. This ruling could be complicit in a stunning rollback of rights in America. Indeed, this ruling takes us closer to authorizing the government to use secret arrests and detentions on a broad range of criminal suspects — or just outspoken critics. The repercussions could be disastrous.”

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