For Immediate Release
DOD Refuses to Turn Over List of Bagram Detainee Information
Government Must Shed Light on Afghan Prison to Prevent "Other Guantánamos," Says ACLU
citizenship, length of detention, capture location and other vital
information about detainees at the Bagram detention facility in
Afghanistan, according to a letter the American Civil Liberties Union
sent to the Department of Defense (DOD) today. In response to an April
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request made by the ACLU to the
Departments of Defense, Justice and State and the CIA for documents
related to the detention and treatment of prisoners at Bagram, the DOD
told the ACLU that it has a list containing basic information about the
Bagram detainees but is withholding it in its entirety. The CIA has
refused even to confirm the existence of records about Bagram.
"There are serious concerns that
Bagram is another Guantánamo - except with many more prisoners, less
due process, no access to lawyers or courts and reportedly worse
conditions," said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU
National Security Project. "As long as the Bagram prison is shrouded in
secrecy, there is no way to know the truth or begin to address the
problems that exist there."
In a July 28 letter responding to
the FOIA request, the DOD informed the ACLU that it had located a
12-page list compiled by the National Detainee Reporting Center of
information about individuals held at Bagram as of June 22, 2009.
However, it has refused to make public any portions of the list,
claiming national security and privacy concerns. Today's letter to the
DOD appeals the withholding of the list.
In May, the CIA stated in a letter
that it could "neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence
of records responsive" to the FOIA request. The ACLU sent a letter to
the agency in June appealing their refusal to comply.
Recent reports suggest that the U.S.
government is still detaining more than 600 individuals at Bagram,
including not only Afghan citizens captured in Afghanistan but also an
unknown number of foreign nationals captured thousands of miles from
Afghanistan and brought to Bagram. Some of the detainees have been held
there for more than six years without charge or access to counsel.
Former Bagram detainees say they were beaten, deprived of sleep and
threatened with dogs while at Bagram, according to a June BBC report
based on interviews with detainees held there between 2002 and 2006.
"The Obama administration should
make good on its own pledge of greater transparency and release these
basic facts about who we are detaining and under what conditions," said
Jonathan Hafetz, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security
Project. "Whenever and wherever prisoners are in U.S. custody or under
U.S. control, our basic values and commitment to the rule of law are at
stake. President Obama's pledge to shut down Guantánamo was a good
first step, but now we must shed light on the conditions at Bagram to
ensure we don't permit 'other Gitmos' to continue elsewhere."
More information about the ACLU's FOIA request and the agency responses is available online at: www.aclu.org/bagram
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.