Obama Administration Might Hold Non-Afghan Detainees At Bagram Indefinitely After Prison Transfer

June 9, 2010 12:00 am

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Administration Should Not Re-Create Gitmo, Says ACLU

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NEW YORK – According to a Los Angeles Times report, a senior U.S. official said the Obama administration wants to detain and interrogate non-Afghan terrorism suspects captured in countries outside Afghanistan in a section of the Bagram prison, even after it turns the prison over to Afghan control. The proposal is reportedly in the early stages of development.

The U.S. government has stated its intention to turn over control of the Bagram detention facility to the Afghan government early next year. In May, a federal court ruled that unlike at Guantánamo, prisoners in U.S. custody at Bagram, including those who were captured far from any battlefield and brought to Afghanistan, cannot challenge their detention in U.S. courts. That decision paves the way for the U.S. government to use Bagram to detain indefinitely, without any judicial oversight, terrorism suspects captured far from any battlefield who have not been charged with a crime.

“The Guantánamo problem is not solved simply by recreating a Guantánamo somewhere else. Closing Guatánamo is essential but it is equally important that the Obama administration put an end to the illegal indefinite detention policy behind Guantánamo,” said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “The entire world is not a battlefield. We cannot just capture people far from any zone of armed conflict and lock up them up indefinitely without any access to the courts or due process. Such a policy not only flies in the face of our justice system, but opens up the possibility that mistakes will be made and the wrong people will be imprisoned – which is exactly what we have seen at Guantánamo.”

The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in September 2009 demanding information about Bagram, which has thus far been shrouded in much secrecy. In response to the lawsuit, the government has turned over some important information but continues to withhold key details about the prisoners detained at Bagram, as well as information about the implementation of its new detainee status review procedures and about a separate “secret jail” on the base. The secret facility is reportedly run by either the Joint Special Operations Command or the Defense Intelligence Agency, and detainees maintain they have been abused there. It is unclear whether guards and interrogators at the secret facility are subject to the same rules that apply at the main Bagram detention facility.

“The possibility of continuing to hold and interrogate detainees at Bagram is even more disturbing given the lack of transparency about the facility,” said Goodman. “Plans to continue holding prisoners in U.S. custody at Bagram must be accompanied by the disclosure of key information about what currently goes on there.”

As part of the ongoing FOIA lawsuit, the ACLU late Tuesday received several documents from the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Justice. The disclosures include a number of detainee policy documents from the early years of the Bush administration, including a 2004 document describing “Global Screening Criteria for Detainees” used to determine who – no matter where they were captured – could be detained as an enemy combatant and which detainees could be transferred to Guantánamo. Also just turned over to the ACLU are Obama-era records including policy guidance from February 2010 regarding access to detainees and facilities by non-DOD government officials, foreign governments, members of the media and representatives of non-governmental organizations that confirms non-DOD agents can visit detainees at Bagram in order to interrogate them. The DOD also disclosed its policy regarding the waiver of autopsy requirements for detainee deaths.

The documents received in the ACLU FOIA lawsuit are available online at: www.aclu.org/national-security/bagram-foia-dod-and-doj-documents-released-692010

More about the FOIA lawsuit is at: www.aclu.org/national-security/bagram-foia

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