Secret Arrests Are an Odious Concept

Secret Arrests Are an Odious Concept

Following the September 11 attacks, the federal government rounded up more than 1,000 people and detained them without revealing their identities.


Following the September 11 attacks, the federal government rounded up more than 1,000 people and detained them without revealing their identities. Last October, The Nation joined the Center for National Security Studies, the American Civil Liberties Union and twenty other groups in submitting a Freedom of Information Act request to the Justice Department asking for information regarding the detainees–including their identities, the reasons for their detentions, and the names of their lawyers. The Justice Department refused the request, and the petitioners (including The Nation) took the government to court. On August 2, federal district court Judge Gladys Kessler issued a decision ordering the government to turn over much of the requested information. In a strongly-worded opinion, she noted, “Secret arrests are ‘a concept odious to a democratic society’…and profoundly antithetical to the bedrock values that characterize a free and open one such as ours.”

The decision was a major loss for the Ashcroft Justice Department, which had argued that it needed to engage in secret detentions in order to prosecute its portion of the war on terrorism. The judge ordered the government to reveal the names within fifteen days. Presumably, the department will appeal the decision before then.

Kessler’s entire decision and order are here in PDF format. Adobe Acrobat required.

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