Gabe Rottman,
Legislative Counsel,
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
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June 7, 2007

Aside from the controversy about the 385 or so detainees that the government admits to holding at Guantanamo Bay, there’s a whole other issue about the secret “black site” prisons, which hold almost forty secret detainees, according to a report released by several human rights groups today.Three of the groups—Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the International Human Rights Clinic at NYU—are also planning to file suit in search of information about the detainees, whom one of the groups likened to “disappeared” dissidents in Latin American dictatorships.Irrespective of that comparison, I would hope we can all agree that unacknowledged detentions are fundamentally unfair and un-American, even in a time of armed conflict.Now, this is not about providing succor to “high-value” terrorists, which is undoubtedly what the administration’s backers are going to claim. No, it’s about the fact that secret detentions are subject to absolutely no checks against abuse. At least we know to seek habeas review of the prisoners down at Gitmo. But if we don’t know to ask, then the government can do what it wants with impunity—and that’s a dangerous row to hoe.Here’s the Post story. And, this is a good bit from the Times:

Even before the secret detentions were officially confirmed, the practice drew widespread objections, including from within the Bush administration. William H. Taft IV, legal adviser at the State Department from 2001 to 2005, opposed it while in office and on Wednesday said he had not changed his view.“I believe the United States should always account for people in its custody,” said Mr. Taft, who had not reviewed the human rights groups’ report. “When our own people are missing, we want to be able to insist on an accounting from their captors,” Mr. Taft said. He added that keeping prisoners secret could tempt their jailers to abuse them and to cover up their deaths in custody.In September, President Bush for the first time officially acknowledged the C.I.A.’s secret overseas detentions, saying that the 14 prisoners then in the agency’s hands had been moved to Guantánamo. A 15th so-called high-level prisoner, an Iraqi Kurd named Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, alleged to be a top aide to Osama bin Laden, was moved to Guantánamo in April after being held secretly by the C.I.A. for several months.