Federal Court Rules Government Can Keep Secret Basic Facts About Bagram Prisoners

October 25, 2010 4:15 pm

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More Transparency Needed On Detention Practices At Massive U.S. Prison In Afghanistan, Says ACLU

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NEW YORK – The Defense Department can continue to withhold key information from the public about the hundreds of detainees imprisoned by the U.S. military at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, according to a federal court ruling today.

The ruling came in an American Civil Liberties Union Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Defense Department and the CIA for records related to the detention and treatment of prisoners at Bagram (now known as Parwan). The Defense Department has released the names of the 645 prisoners who were detained there as of September 2009, but has kept secret other vital information including their citizenship, how long they have been held, in what country they were captured and the circumstances of their capture. The ACLU charged that the Defense Department is improperly withholding these basic facts about Bagram prisoners and their detention, and asked the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to order the Defense Department to turn over the information. In denying the ACLU’s motion, the court also ruled that the CIA did not act improperly when it refused to even confirm or deny whether the CIA had records about the rendition and interrogation of Bagram detainees.

The U.S. military has announced its intention to transfer control of Bagram prison to the Afghan government next year. However, media outlets have reported that the Obama administration intends to maintain control over a portion of the prison and to continue detaining some prisoners in U.S. custody there, including non-Afghan terrorism suspects captured outside of Afghanistan and prisoners considered “enduring security threats.”

The following can be attributed to Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project:

“Despite concerns that Bagram has become the new Guantánamo, the public remains in the dark when it comes to basic facts about the facility and whom our military is holding in indefinite military detention there. The public has a right to know how long the U.S. has kept people locked up in military detention and under what circumstances. The lack of transparency about these key facts is even more disturbing considering the possibility that the U.S. will continue holding and interrogating prisoners at Bagram well into the future. Unfortunately, today’s ruling will allow the government to continue hiding this vital information.”

More information about the ACLU’s FOIA lawsuit, including today’s filings, is online at: www.aclu.org/national-security/bagram-foia

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