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Detainees' names can be withheld during appeal, judge rules

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  1. Freedom of Information

    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Freedom of Information         Aug 15, 2002    

Detainees’ names can be withheld during appeal, judge rules

  • The names of those detained in the investigation of the September 11 terrorist attacks can be kept secret while a federal appeals court hears the Justice Department’s case.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled today that the U.S. government can keep secret, for now, the identities of people being held for possible roles in the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania.

Kessler had ruled on Aug. 2 that the U.S. Department of Justice must release the names, saying that their attorneys had not proven that disclosing the identities would hurt investigation of the attacks.

The Justice Department appealed the ruling on Aug. 8, asking at the same time for a temporary stay of the order to reveal the names.

More than two dozen civil rights and public interest organizations filed the lawsuit in Washington, D.C., after their October 2001 FOI Act request with the Justice Department failed to produce the full list of names. The plaintiffs included the Center for National Securities Studies and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

In today’s ruling, Kessler said the stay is appropriate because “stays are routinely granted in FOIA cases; that disclosure of the names of the detainees and their lawyers would effectively moot any appeal; and that the Government has promised to seek expedited consideration from the Court of Appeals.”

She said the stay will remain in effect until a federal appeals court has ruled, which could take months.

(Center for National Security Studies v. U.S. Department of Justice; Attorney: Kate Martin, Washington, D.C.) JE

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