ACLU Says Court Decision Allowing Secret Arrests Ignores Internal Justice Department Report of 9/11 Detainee Abuse

June 17, 2003

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Media@dcaclu.org

WASHINGTON - The American Civil Liberties Union strongly criticized today's appeals court decision upholding the government's secret arrest policy after 9/11, saying the ruling ignored mounting evidence of the government's misconduct in its treatment of detainees held in the months after the attacks.  

Significantly, the ACLU said, this pattern of the wholesale denial of rights was detailed in an internal Justice Department report released earlier this month.

""This unprecedented decision is particularly unfortunate in light of this month's revelation by the Justice Department,"" said Steven R. Shapiro, ACLU Legal Director.  ""As the lower court ruled -- and as the Justice Department's own internal watchdog recently demonstrated -- secret arrests are 'odious in a democratic society.'""

The ACLU was one of the lead plaintiffs when the case was first argued in November 2001.

Today's decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia partially reversed a lower court ruling and upheld the government's continuing refusal to release the names of about 700 people detained in connection with the 9/11 investigation. 

It is noteworthy that today's decision completely ignores the recent report issued by the Department of Justice's own Inspector General, which documented in great detail the abuses committed by the government in its investigation.  

It is also particularly unfortunate, Shapiro said, that the majority opinion continues to assert that many of those arrested by the federal government after September 11th had ""links to terrorism,"" when the Inspector General's report makes clear that many people with no connection whatsoever to terrorism were picked up indiscriminately and haphazardly in the government's post-9/11 sweep.  

""Secrecy breeds abuses,"" Shapiro said. ""A government of the people and for the people must be visible to the people. As a lower court has ruled, without standards of public accountability, civil liberties invariably disappear.""

The ACLU's brief in the case can be found at:
/cpredirect/16863

The decision can be found at:
http://pacer.cadc.uscourts.gov/docs/common/opinions/200306/02-5254a.pdf

The Inspector General's report can be found at:
http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/special/0603/full.pdf

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