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Case for detainee names brought to Supreme Court

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  1. Freedom of Information

    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Freedom of Information    

Case for detainee names brought to Supreme Court

  • Public interest groups asked the nation’s high court to review the federal appellate court decision that allows the government to keep secret the names of detainees rounded up and jailed since the terrorist attacks of 2001.

Sep. 30, 2003 — Nineteen groups asked the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday to review the appeals court decision that allows the Department of Justice to withhold the names of hundreds of people secretly arrested and detained following the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

A split panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., ruled in mid-June that the Freedom of Information Act does not force disclosure. The government can withhold the names under the law enforcement exemption to the FOI Act. The majority said they would defer to the Justice Department’s view that disclosure might interfere with law enforcement proceedings because “national security” was at issue.

Calling that decision a “toothless form of deferential review,” the groups, led by the Center for National Security Studies, asked the Supreme Court to determine the government’s obligation in releasing names and basic information relating to people detained in the weeks following Sept. 11.

They also asked the Supreme Court to decide if the First Amendment prohibits the government from refusing to disclose the identities of people it has arrested and detained, absent a compelling need for secret arrests. They said the reasoning in the line of cases in which the Court has found a First Amendment right of access would apply to information about people who have been arrested but not yet taken to court (if they ever will be).

In addition to the Center for National Security Studies, a public interest group in Washington, D.C., the plaintiffs include the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

(Center for National Security Studies v. Department of Justice; attorney for the public interest and press groups: Paul Smith, Jenner & Block, Washington, D.C.) RD


© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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