The Defense Department does not have to release the names of Guantanamo Bay detainees who reported abuse by military personnel or who were suspected of abusing others, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan (2nd Cir.) decided Monday, overturning a lower court decision.
The three-judge panel held that The Associated Press’s Freedom of Information Act request for the detainee names and family member names and addresses should not be granted because of the detainees’ privacy interests.
Judge Peter Hall, writing for the unanimous court, said the detainees’ privacy interests were not the same as the rights of prisoners, but were broader. Hall also said the notion that the detainees would want to publicize their situation or voluntarily disclose the information had no basis in previous court decisions and shouldn’t be considered by the court.
Detainees who may have abused other detainees had an even greater privacy interest in remaining unknown because identifying them could subject them to “embarrassment and humiliation,” Hall reasoned.
The public interest in access to this information did not override the detainees’ privacy interests, Hall concluded.
Hall allowed that knowing the detainees’ identities might make it possible to “see whether those allegations affected the government’s decision to transfer, release, or continue to detain them.”
But, he concluded, “The speculative nature of the result is insufficient to outweigh the detainees’ privacy interest in nondisclosure.”
This is the second time in recent weeks the Second Circuit has ruled against The Associated Press. The court also blocked access to the clemency petition of American-born Taliban soldier John Walker Lindh, saying Lindh’s privacy interest trumped the public interest in disclosure of the document.