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U.S. General Calls for Release of Most Bagram Detainees

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August 20, 2009

This morning, NPR reported that Marine Maj. Gen. Doug Stone has released a 700-page report to military officials about the detainees at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. The doozy: in his opinion, 400 of the 600 detainees currently at detention center “can be released, as there is little evidence against them and they pose no threat.”

In April, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Departments of Justice, State, Defense and the CIA asking for the release of basic information such as how many people are imprisoned at Bagram, who they are, how long they’ve been detained, and where and under what circumstances they were captured. We also requested records about the process for prisoners to challenge their detention and designation as “enemy combatants.”

The government has been far from responsive. The DOD basically told us: we have all of that information, but we’re not giving it to you. The CIA came back with its typical answer of total secrecy that it could “neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records responsive.”

We’ve sent letters to both agencies appealing these decisions. Melissa Goodman, the ACLU attorney who filed the Bagram FOIA, said in an op-ed in al-Jazeera today:

There are serious concerns that Bagram is another Guantánamo – except with many more prisoners, less due process, no access to lawyers or courts and reportedly worse conditions. As long as the Bagram prison is shrouded in secrecy, there is no way to know the truth or begin to address the problems that exist there.

So with today’s news that most of the detainees there can and should be released, why does the Obama administration continue to withhold basic information about them? Will Bagram be Obama’s Gitmo? Because secret detention didn’t work out so well for the last administration.

h/t: Daphne Eviatar

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