CNSS and Others Sue Justice Department to Release Information on Detainees

Center for National Security Studies
Press Release – 05 December 2001

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Sarah Margon 202-994-7060

CNSS and Others Sue Justice Department
to Release Information on Detainees

Washington D.C. – December 5th – CNSS, along with 17 other civil liberties, human rights, and public access organizations, today filed a law suit against the Justice Department that demands the release of information pertaining to the hundreds of individuals who have been jailed since the September 11th terrorist attacks.

On October 29, many of these same organizations participated in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed with the Justice Department, the FBI, and the INS demanding the release of the names and citizenship status of those arrested, the charges on which they’ve been detained, the names of their lawyers, and where they are being held. A month after filing the request, only the FBI has formally denied the FOIA request, while the INS and the Justice Department have merely acknowledged the request.

Kate Martin, Director of the Center for National Security Studies, states: "While certain aspects of the FBI investigation into the terrorist attacks need to be secret, we do not live in a country where the government can keep secret who they arrest, where they are being held, or the charges against them. The secret detention of more than 1100 people over the past six weeks is frighteningly close to the practice of ‘disappearing’ people in Latin America."

While some information has been released by the Justice Department over the past month, it falls short of the FOIA request in numerous ways. The Justice Department has refused to disclose information on: eleven individuals charged with Federal crimes; the names of immigration detainees and of their lawyers; where they were originally detained and where they are currently being held; and those detained as material witnesses or on state or local charges. No relevant information has been provided regarding the courts where secrecy orders were requested or even the secrecy orders themselves. Only partial information has been released about those detained on Federal charges that have since been released from custody.

The groups participating in the law suit include: the ACLU, American Immigration Law Foundation, American Immigration Lawyers Association, Amnesty International USA, Arab American Institute, Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Center for Constitutional Rights, Center for Democracy and Technology, Center for National Security Studies, Council on American Islamic Relations, Electronic Privacy Information Center, First Amendment Foundation, Human Rights Watch, The Multiracial Activist, The Nation Magazine, People for the American Way Foundation, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and World Organization Against Torture, USA.