What's at Stake
In April 2009, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records relating to the detention and treatment of prisoners held at the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. The ACLU is asking the Obama administration to make public records pertaining to the number of people currently detained at Bagram, their names, citizenship, place of capture and length of detention, as well as records pertaining to the process afforded those prisoners to challenge their detention and designation as “enemy combatants.”
The U.S. government’s Bagram detention facility has been the focus of widespread media attention and public concern for many years, but very little information is publically available about the secrecy-shrouded facility or the prisoners held there. The U.S. government has been detaining an unknown number of prisoners at the Bagram detention facility since 2002, and recent news reports indicate that the more than 1,800 individuals are currently detained there – some of whom have been held for as long as six years without access to counsel or a meaningful opportunity to challenge their imprisonment. The conditions of confinement at Bagram have at times been very primitive, with numerous allegations of mistreatment and abuse. In fact, at least two prisoners died there after undergoing brutal interrogations. There is public concern in the U.S. and around the world that Bagram has become, in effect, the new Guantánamo.
In January 2010, in response to the ACLU’s lawsuit, the Defense Department released for the first time a list of the 645 prisoners held at Bagram in September 2009, but other vital information including their citizenship, how long they have been held, in what country they were captured and the circumstances of their capture has been redacted.
Although the nation is embroiled in an intense public debate about U.S. policy pertaining to the detention and treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody, Americans remain completely in the dark about even the most basic facts about Bagram. When prisoners are in U.S. custody and under U.S. control – no matter the location – our values and commitment to the rule of law are at stake. Now that President Obama has taken the positive step of ordering Guantánamo shut down, it is critical that we don’t permit ‘other Gitmos’ to continue elsewhere.
April 2013: Department of Defense releases April 2009 Bagram Detention Operations Policy Memorandum and releases newly unredacted portions of documents related to Bagram detention and detention-review policies.
August 2012: Department of Defense, Justice, and State release additional documents produced by the Special Task Force on Detainee Disposition, among others, in rolling response to the ACLU’s FOIA request.
July 2011: Defense Department files motion to seek return of improperly classified document given to the ACLU that contains “enduring security threat” detention criteria. (Learn More »)
June 2011: ACLU urges Defense Department to declassify documents produced to the ACLU that disclose “enduring security threat” detention criteria.
October 2010: Defense Department releases a less-redacted version of the list of Bagram detainees.
May 14, 2010: Defense Department releases documents pertaining to the detention policies and conditions at Bagram.
April 12, 2010: As a result of the ACLU’s FOIA litigation, the Defense Department releases a less-redacted version of the list of Bagram detainees.
March 2010: ACLU files a brief asking a federal court to order Defense Department to disclose basic facts it is improperly withholding about Bagram prisoners, and to order CIA to process the FOIA request.
January 2010: In response to the ACLU’s lawsuit, the Defense Department releases for the first time a list of the 645 prisoners held at Bagram in September 2009. Although the list includes prisoners’ names, other vital information is redacted.
September 2009: ACLU files lawsuit to enforce FOIA request.
July 2009: Defense Department sends ACLU a letter refusing to release a list of Bagram detainees.
May 2009: CIA sends ACLU a letter refusing to confirm or deny the existence of records relating to Bagram.
April 2009: ACLU files Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for Bagram records.